It was a fantastic series. The type that every team wants to play in. But it wasn’t the ending the Monticello Polecats were looking for.
After edging the Champlin LoGators in extra innings of Game 1, the ‘Cats dropped Games 2 and 3 to lose the best-of-three series to the LoGators. The series loss ends the season for the Monticello Polecats, while Champlin qualifies to advance to the Class B State Tournament.
“It was a great series, it could’ve went either way,” said Polecats Coach Gary Revenig. “Unfortunately they made a couple more plays than we did and they won the series.”
The tables turned in the series in the ninth inning of Game 2. The Polecats took a 1-0 lead in the eighth-inning on a Ben Schaben home run, and entered the ninth three outs away from putting the series away. An error with two outs and no one on gave Champlin new life and they took advantage. Two more baserunners reached, pushing the tying run across home plate and forcing extra innings. Champlin would strike again in the 11th, using a passed ball to bring a runner home and force a third game.
The loss was particularly tough for Monti as they wasted a lights-out outing from Tanner Eckhart on the mound. Eckhart threw nine complete innings, allowing just the one unearned run, while striking out eight and scattering seven hits.
“Tanner pitched an awesome game. It was just fun to watch,” said Revenig, pointing out that Eckhart didn’t allow a walk. “He just doesn’t get himself into trouble.”
Eckhart finished the year with 42 innings pitched over eight appearances. The postseason run was just the second run he allowed all season. The only earned run came in an inning with two infield singles. Eckhart walked just two guys in his 42 innings, while striking out 55 batters.
With the Saturday afternoon loss, Monti was forced to come back to the diamond Sunday to host Champlin in a 1 p.m. winner-take-all showdown. With the exception of a four-run outburst for Monti in the second inning, it was all LoGators.
Champlin took a 2-0 lead, before falling behind briefly at 4-2. The LoGators scratched back to tie it at four before erupting for five with two outs in the fifth inning to take a commanding 9-4 lead en route to a 10-5 victory. Monti used four pitchers in the contest, starting with Michael Revenig, who threw three innings of relief Friday night. Monti also used Andrew Manning, Joe Tupy, and Jake Kounkel in the loss.
Monti struggled to find the strike zone for much of the contest, and the LoGators took advantage. Champlin walked nine times and banged out 13 hits in the game.
“They flat out beat us on Sunday,” said Revenig. “We just had a hard time making some plays and throwing strikes at time.”
Revenig was quick to tip his cap to the LoGators, who showed impressive pitching depth and strong fielding in the series.
“They capitalized on our mistakes,” he said. “We played hard, they just outplayed us. They earned it.”
Monti’s lone win in the series came in thrilling fashion. In a showdown between two dominant 2017 high school graduates, Monti outlasted Champlin for a 3-2 10-inning victory. Nick Zwack got the start for Monti and threw seven innings, allowing two runs. Revenig said it was a gutty performance from Zwack, who totaled nearly 120 pitches in the outing.
Champlin countered with a pitcher that touched 90 with his fastball and kept the ‘Cats guessing all night.
Both teams squeezed across two runs in the third, and that was all until the tenth and final inning. That inning started with walks to Keenan Macki and Joe Tupy, before Michael Olson grounded into a fielders choice. Champlin got the out at third, but Tupy advanced to third on the ensuing throw to first, putting runners at the corners with one out. A walk to Revenig set the stage for Aaron Hanson, and the catcher delivered. Hanson drove a hard single through a drawn-in infield, bringing in Tupy and setting off a Polecats celebration.
“Friday night was so much fun,” said Revenig, complimenting the atmosphere at the MHS field. “It was such a well-played game by both teams.”
With the series win, Champlin advances to the final four, which will be played this weekend in St. Michael to determine seeding for the Class B State Tournament. Monti finishes the season with a record of 20-7, and a Central Ridge League Championship.
“We had a great year, a phenomenal year,” said Revenig. “It was just a fun group to coach. Hopefully this will just make them hungry.”
For the season, Olson led Monti with a .393 batting average. Schaben (.353), Hanson (.344), Tupy (.308), and Eckhart (.300) all joined Olson in hitting .300 or better. Olson also led the team with 37 RBIs and 25 runs scored, as well as four home runs and seven triples during the season. Olson and Hanson both hit ten doubles to pace the team in that category.
Eckhart led the team in ERA and strikeouts, while Revenig led in innings pitched with 52.1. Eckhart was joined by four other pitchers with a sub-3 ERA on the season. They were Jakob Kounkel (1.157), Zwack (1.875), Joe Kounkel (2.077), and Revenig (2.58). Tupy provided 41.1 innings for Monti on the mound, posting an ERA of 3.048.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]