MONMOUTH — The two surprise baseball teams in the Mountain Valley Conference this season, Winthrop and Monmouth, were full of surprises Monday.

Winthrop opened the game with four first-inning runs against Monmouth ace Kyle Fletcher and cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. That’s when Winthrop starter Jared Hanson hit the wall and Monmouth scored eight runs on its way to an 11-8 win.

Neither of these teams were picked as favorites in the MVC this season although with a deep pitching staff, Monmouth was certainly a dark horse. And with just one senior, Winthrop was considered too inexperienced to contend. Monmouth is 6-1, while Winthrop is 5-1 and both are likely headed to the postseason.

Both teams can hit, too. Winthrop had 11 hits, including four for extra bases, while Monmouth collected 13, six in the eight-run sixth.

“Our motto all year has been be mentally strong,” Monmouth catcher Billy Cummings said. “We kept staying with it and kept chipping away and eventually we hit our stride.”

Winthrop coach Marc Fortin has walked a fine line between leaving his starters in and taking them out.

“We’ve got three pitchers,” Fortin said. “We’re trying to keep everybody where we need them. We’ve got to stretch these guys as far as we can.”

Hanson opened the sixth with 96 pitches under his belt and walked Brett Wilson to lead things off. Fletcher followed with a long double to left center followed by Brandon Goff’s infield hit to score a run. Cummings doubled home two more runs and an overthrow on the play brought in another run to make it 8-6.

Alex Curtis and Devin West added RBI singles while the Ramblers made a couple of questionable decisions in the field. Fletcher capped the inning with a sacrifice fly.

“We couldn’t make the plays and even when we made the plays, we made poor decisions,” Fortin said. “I don’t think we actually lost that game, we kind of gave it away.”

Winthrop scored four runs in the first after two were out, the big hit a two-run triple from Dakota Carter.

The Ramblers added three in the third as Carter doubled home a run and Matt Sekerak tripled home another to make it 8-3.

Goff replaced Fletcher to start the fourth inning and was followed by eventual winner Nate Gagne in the sixth and DJ McHugh in the seventh. McHugh finished with three hits for the Mustangs while Fletcher and Goff each had two. Carter led the Ramblers with three hits while Hanson had two.

“We’ve been hitting the ball well all year,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “Finally we started hitting the ball hard, they missed a couple of plays, we took advantage of it and just kept rolling.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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