GLUCKSTADT — Northwest Rankin’s Nick Monistere stepped to the plate Thursday night with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth inning and the Cougars nursing a 4-1 lead over the homesteading Germantown Mavericks.
The first pitch he saw was a fastball, and he didn’t miss it.
The Southern Miss signee’s grand-slam homer, along with another solid start from senior right-hander Evan Rogers, helped the top-ranked Cougars pull away from the Mavericks in an 11-1 win in six innings.
The win was the eighth in a row for the Cougars (17-2), who have now scored 38 runs in their last three games against Brandon, Pearl and now Germantown.
“We’ve been getting much better at-bats here lately and you can see the proof on the scoreboard,” Northwest Rankin coach K.K. Aldridge said. “The guys are being more patient at the plate and fighting off pitches to keep at-bats going. Sam Whatley had a nine-pitch at-bat right and drew a walk there in the fourth to set up Nick’s grand slam. That’s the kind of approach we’re looking for.”
Germantown starter Conner Ware, making just his third appearance of the season coming off an injury, was solid in his three innings of work. He gave up just one hit, walked one batter and struck out five. Northwest Rankin’s one run in the second inning came after an error and a passed ball on a pitch in the dirt.
The Mavericks tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Jarrett Wade singled to lead off the inning and came home to score on Lawson Gardner’s double into the gap in right-center.
But the wheels came off for Germantown in the top of the fourth.
Christian Cameron, who was 4-for-4 Thursday night, laced the first of his two doubles to drive home a run and put Northwest Rankin ahead. When he came around to score on a passed ball, the Cougars held a 3-1 lead.
With the bases loaded and one out, Rogers was awarded first base after a catcher’s interference call to plate another run.
That brought Monistere to the plate. He didn’t waste any time, jumping all over the first pitch.
“It was a fastball middle-in, just where I like it,” Monistere said. “Early on, we were getting a lot of good pitching but we were just trying to do too much. But going into district play, and really a little before that, we’ve been dialing it back, swinging 90 percent and just trying to get the barrel on the ball, and I think that’s where all our hits are coming from.”
The Cougars added two more runs in the fourth on an two-RBI single from Ainsworth. They got the 10-run rule-sealing solo shot in the sixth from catcher Brady Thomas, who stretched his home run streak to four games.
Rogers went the distance on the hill to get the win, allowing one run on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
“He’s been a really nice surprise for us this year,” Aldridge said. “We knew he could pitch, but he’s been phenomenal this year. He’s got great secondary stuff, he can change speeds with the same arm action and he just knows how to pitch.”
Germantown (10-7) was vying for its second win against a top-five ranked team in as many weeks after taking one out of three games against Madison Central last weekend.
Coach Brian Hardy said he was disappointed the game got away from them, despite Mavericks’ pitchers giving up just six hits.
“We threw (Conner) Ware 40 pitches on Saturday, so we just don’t want to push it with him,” Hardy said. “We’re still looking for that guy to bridge the gap between our best arm and our second-best arm in those middle innings… tonight we gave up the big inning, and I told the guys after the game ‘Nobody hits their way into a nine-run inning.’ If we don’t help them with the walks and the errors and the passed balls, we can avoid that.”