Baseball: Clutch Monmouth slides fits Oak Hill

MONMOUTH — Matt Marquis stepped to the plate knowing teammate Hayden Fletcher was going to steal second base.

Then it would be up to Marquis to break the seventh-inning tie between Monmouth and Oak Hill.

Fletcher, who singled, did take second, and Marquis hit the next pitch deep enough to right field for Fletcher to sprint around third and beat the throw home, giving the Mustangs a 4-3 baseball win over the Raiders in a showdown between two Class C South Contenders Wednesday.

“As soon as he got on, I had a feeling he would get on second. And then, from there, it was simple: put the ball in play,” Marquis said.

Marquis and Fletcher being catalysts for Monmouth’s walk-off win was an extension of their seasons, according to Mustangs (12-2) coach Eric Palleschi.

“They’re two guys that had hit all year for us,” Palleschi said. “They’d been at the top of the order all year long and been swinging well all year long. Hayden has been there before.”

Fletcher’s and Marquis’ clutch hits secured a win that started with a only one hit by the Mustangs in the first three innings.

Oak Hill (8-5), meanwhile, took a 2-0 lead with with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning. Jackson Arbor drove into Caden Thompson and later scored on a wild pitch.

The Mustangs didn’t panic and stayed true to the approach that has now earned them six consecutive wins.

“Stay with the game plan, trust the process,” Palleschi said he told the team when the fell behind. “We had been swinging the bat well. I thought (Oak Hill starting pitcher) Kyle Delano threw a great game and we had some balls hit pretty hard right at guys, but these guys have done a good job of trusting the process and keeping with what we talked about.”

Delano pitched 6 1/3 innings and struck out five batters.

“Kyle has had a couple good outings in a row, is finding his groove, and they just made a couple plays at the end to tie it up,” Oak Hill coach Chad Stowell said. “Then, every once in a while, good hitting beats good pitching, and I think that’s what happened.”

Monmouth cut Oak Hill’s lead to 2-1 when Sammy Calder scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Raiders, who entered the game on an eight-game win streak, reclaimed their two-run lead in the fifth. Arbor was involved again. He walked, stole second, and, three batters later, scored on a double play to put Oak Hill up 3-1

Calder’s infield single brought Seth McKenney home to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to one run. Then Fletcher scored the tying run when Manny Calder was called safe at first base because the Oak Hill first baseman’s foot came off the bag.

Monmouth starting pitcher Isaac Olivera sat the Raiders down in order in the sixth and seventh innings. As the game went on, Olivera felt better and better about his pitches.

“(Olivera) looked like he hadn’t lost velocity, and looked like he added velocity through the game,” Palleschi said. “We rode it and saw what happened.”

Olivera’s pitch count was in the 90s heading into the seventh inning. Palleschi talked to him about whether he wanted to keep pitching or not, and Olivera responded with, “I’m fine.”

“He just came out and told me I had until 110 (pitches),” Olivera said. “I knew it was going to be a battle and I just needed to throw strikes. I got into the sixth inning, and I started following through with my arm, throwing strikes low in the zone, and I just kept doing that in the seventh. My arm, it’s hurting right now, but still…

“That follow-through part I mentioned, as I was following through better, they were hitting the zone. (The umpire’s) zone was outside, so I had to shift in, and that made it hard throughout the game.”

Monmouth defeated Oak Hill 9-2 on April 30. That was the Raiders’ third of four straight losses to open the season before they won their next eight games.

Stowell said that, with the postseason starting soon, he was smooth Oak Hill was able to play another competitive game with a top Class C team.

“This last week and a half, playing Dirigo a couple times, then we have Mt. Abram on Monday, and then also had this game, we get to play some of the tougher teams, and it’s a good barometer to see where we’re at,” Stowell said. “Today we saw that we can compete with the teams at the top of the conference and saw what we needed to tighten up. Now we know what we gotta do.”

Fletcher finished the game with a game-high three hits for Monmouth.


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