Coming from the Monarchs’ manager, it more often than not sounds like coach speak.
But really – when it comes right down to it – that has been the winning formula for Hutch, which enters tonight’s Mid Kansas Collegiate NBC Qualifier championship game one win away from a fourth straight trip to the NBC World Series.
That approach certainly paid dividends in the Monarchs’ 7-1 winner’s bracket final win over Newton on Monday night at Klein-Scott Field.
The Monarchs turned four double plays in a sterling defensive performance. Starter Cory Roper was solid before Alex Cox and Junior Mustain took over and shut Newton down over the final 4 1/3 innings. The offense parlayed 14 hits into seven runs and benefited from first baseman Brendan Miller’s big night at the plate.
“It’s just about putting it all together like McCue tells us everyday,” said Cox, who picked up the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Rebels. “He tells us if we play all three phases of the game right, we’re going to have a chance to win every night. We’ve been doing that the past three games, four games. Just doing what the big man tells us.”
Cox delivered when Hutch was on the brink in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded and power threat Gene Nanney at the plate (he homered the inning before), the right-hander got an easy ground out to escape the jam.
“Just got to attack, got to attack early,” Cox said of his mindset during the at-bat. “Try to make him get himself out, which he did. Come in and throw strikes.”
Miller supplied the offensive firepower.
He drilled a two-run double in the bottom of the first to open the game’s scoring, tying the Monarchs’ single-season record for two-base hits (14) in the process.
After Cox recorded the crucial out in the fifth, Miller launched a two-run home run – his third of the year – to swing the momentum back to Hutch’s favor.
He flashed the leather at first base, too, taking part in all four of the Monarchs’ double plays. The first baseman out of McPherson College made a beautiful play to end the top half of the seventh, snagging a grounder just inside the foul line, tagging first and throwing to second to complete the double play—all while falling down.
“It’s contagious. It just spreads,” Miller said of Hutch’s defensive showing. “When they play good defense, everybody wants to play good defense.”
Hutch has a chance to lock up its NBC World Series berth tonight when they face the winner of the 4:30 p.m. game between Newton and the Kansas Cannons (the latter of which is already headed to the WS).
McCue said he will start Garrett Hoover tonight and plans to use as many relievers as he sees fit.
“One more (win) and we got this thing,” Miller said. “We’re sitting in pretty good shape right now. We got good pitching coming up. We had solid, solid defense tonight. It’s good to see.”
If Hutch loses tonight, it would get a second chance at the tourney title. Since the Monarchs haven’t lost in the double elimination tourney and they’re slated to face the loser’s bracket champ, they are ensured another game.