Stokowski's blast lifts Sages

Stokowski's blast lifts Sages

TOLONO — Things weren’t going Monticello’s way halfway through its game against St. Joseph-Ogden in a Class 2A sectional semifinal Wednesday.

The Sages had to pull starter Matt Crook with no outs in the third inning. The Spartans scored three runs in the inning to take a 4-0 lead.

When Monticello finally scored in the sixth, its rally was cut short by a base-running gaffe.

All it took was one pitch to go right.

Trailing 4-2 in the top of the seventh inning, the Sages’ Nick Stokowski hit a three-run homer over the right-field fence to give Monticello its first lead, one the Sages would hold on to for an improbable 5-4 victory.

“Our team battles. I knew they weren’t safe until the game was over,” said Stokowski, who broke the school record for RBI in a season with 57 on that swing. “We just hung in there and got base runners and capitalized.”

The inning began with a leadoff double by No. 9 hitter Daniel Caldwell.

Ryne Bundy was hit by a pitch after Jacob Burton grounded out to the Spartans’ Cole Berry on the mound. Then the SJ-O pitcher served up a fastball that went well over the fence 268 feet away. Stokowski knew it was out when he hit it; how about the view from second base?

“I saw the trajectory. I didn’t know how hard he hit it,” Caldwell said. “But Coach said ‘Get out, ball,’ and I just let up and coasted on home. Nick has been clutch all year, and that shot proved to be the big momentum change.”

“We haven’t been down too much,” Stokowski said. “(The dugout) was getting a little quiet until we started getting those base runners. We just kept fighting.”

After entering the game in the sixth inning, Caldwell got SJ-O’s Clayton Slifer to ground out to Bundy at shortstop. Caldwell got the win and was able to close out a playoff game for Monticello after exiting in the final inning against St. Thomas More in the regional championship.

“Coming out of the ’pen for the first time this year, I had a different mind-set,” Caldwell said. “Had the curveball going a lot better than against STM. Just felt better, more comfortable.”

Austin Hopper quieted things down on the mound for Monticello after Crook struggled early. Hopper gave up one run in three innings and struck out two.

Daniel Peterson (one run, two doubles), David Vanderkloot (one run, one RBI) and Nathan Mumm (one RBI, double) each had two hits for Monticello (25-6).

Stokowski’s home run spoiled a strong outing from SJ-O’s Tyler McCormick, who struck out six in six innings and allowed the two runs in the sixth.

Berry suffered the loss for the Spartans (32-3). Chase Gadau (one run, double) and Berry (one RBI) each went 2 for 3.

Monticello will play the winner of Thursday’s sectional semifinal between Olympia and Paris on Saturday.

“We’ll have all hands on deck,” Monticello coach Chris Jones said. “We’ll get everybody throwing, get a little bit of rest the next two days and see what we have on Saturday.

“I expect good baseball. It’s that time of the season when everybody’s going to be pretty good fundamentally.”