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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

MIKE POPOLILLO OF Sullivan West is out at the plate as Monticello catcher Dave Soderblom holds his glove up to the umpire, showing him that the baseball is indeed in the glove.

Panthers Still Winless

By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO — May 10, 2002 – Was it a catfight or a dog scrap?
Tuesday’s non-league baseball game between the home team Panthers of Monticello (0-14) and the Sullivan West Bulldogs (9-3) couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be a battle of the resident cats or the visiting hounds until the fifth frame when Monticello scored a much needed run.
But in the top of the sixth inning, James Kearns led off with a homer for the Bulldogs, and the Panthers’ glimmer of winning their first game of the season began to fade. Monticello’s disappointment thickened in the seventh as Sullivan West added two runs to clinch a 3-1 victory.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when Monticello’s Dan Catalano got hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt by Billy Wagner moved him up to second. Matt Russo doubled, sending Catalano across the plate to give Monticello a 1-0 lead.
But then the Panthers’ ray of hope began to shatter in the sixth when Kearns led off the frame by sending a shot over the fence to tie it up, 1-1.
“It was nice,” said Kearns, an 18-year-old senior. “I’ve been kind of low this season with confidence in my bat.”
In the seventh inning, the Bulldogs scored two more runs to ensure the victory.
Rob Taylor bunted and reached on an error. A passed ball sent him overto second. Jon Fanning’s stand-up triple to right field center scored J. C. Henry, who was pinch-running for Taylor.
Kyle Bright then grounded out to second, but the throw to the plate was not in time to keep Fanning from scoring.
The Bulldogs missed an opportunity to boost their lead.
Bright, Mike Popolillo and Matt Pomes were left stranded on the bases when Jake Sauer-Jones hit into a fielder’s choice to close out the top of the final inning.
Sullivan West hurler Mike Cookingham was pleased with the win, especially on this particular afternoon.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Cookingham said. “I just tried to get it over the plate.
“We had a rough start (this season), but we’re pulling together as a team,” added Cookingham, a 19-year-old senior with four years of varsity baseball under his belt.
In the bottom of the final frame, SW Coach Kurt Schiebe felt that Cookingham was “losing a little zip on his fast ball” and sent reliever Taylor into the game.
“Rob’s got a little more junk to change pace on their batters,” Schiebe said.
As it turned out, the two-run lead was enough on this afternoon.
“It’s always nice when you win,” Schiebe said. “We didn’t start off well . . . we had a couple of base running mistakes and when we tried our first-and-third trick play (simultaneously attempting to steal second and home), it didn’t work (because) they played it just right.
“Mike Cookingham went six strong innings and got us out of some jams, and Jake Sauer-Jones did a great job behind the plate throwing out three runners trying to steal,” added Schiebe.
Perhaps echoing his team’s disappoinment in the so-far winless season, Monticello Coach John Spear had just one comment following the game.
“I ain’t got nothing to say,” Spear said.
Monticello pitcher Jose Swarez, a 17-year-old senior, summed up the Panthers’ season.
“I thought we were going to be better this year, but hopefully we’ll pull it around and start winning some ballgames,” said Swarez, who is in his third season as a varsity Panther hurler. “It was a tough one. We’re still looking for a win.”

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