The number 22 will always be a meaningful one for this year’s Monett High School softball team.
Monett beat Notre Dame of Cape Girardeau 4-1 on Saturday in the championship game of the MSHSAA Class 3 softball tournament in Springfield.
So why is the number 22 so significant to the Cubs?
Let me explain.
When the regular season came to an end, Monett held a 16-10 record.
Ahead of the postseason, each and every member of the Cubs began scrawling the number 22 on their wrists.
Day after day and week after week, the number served as a motivational tool and constant reminder of the team’s desired goal.
For the Cubs, capturing a state championship would require the team to reach 22 wins.
Cubs coach Ty Goetz noted setting the lofty goal at the conclusion of the regular season was important to his team’s postseason run.
“We brought the marker out just before districts,” Goetz said of the 22 mantra. “We were at 16 wins. We always try to come up with something to push us. We said it’d take six more wins to get the state title. We started writing that (22) on our wrists and I think after the Rogersville game they really bought into that. We started writing that about every day in practice and at school.”
Not only were the players writing the number on their wrists, but also team’s manager and coaches, as well.
“That’s what I love about coaching a team sport,” Goetz said. “Everybody’s got to have a hand in it.”
That all important victory No. 22 came on Saturday at Killian Sports Complex as Monett captured its first-ever softball title.
“We’re going to enjoy this as much as we can,” Goetz said.
Throughout the 2017 fall season, a state title wasn’t always a given for the Cubs.
Monett was sitting at 5-6 on the season on September 9 after losses to Republic, Webb City, Kickapoo, Nixa, Platte County and Lee’s Summit West. Of course, all of those losses came to much bigger schools.
Monett then went 11-4 down the stretch to finish the regular season at 16-10.
Six-straight wins in the postseason resulted in the state championship. With that, the Cubs showed it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Yes, Monett’s tough early season schedule put a few losses on the team’s record, but that difficult slate also helped prepare the Cubs for a deep postseason run.
“You think about the early games, we didn't win the close ones,” said Goetz, who was assisted by Michael Calhoun and Amber Holman this season. “We talked about it all season. Eventually those games are going to mean something to us and it’s going to come back on the other side. I feel like it’s been that way all postseason.”
Players that will return with starting experience next season include juniors Maddi Coones (right field), Kelli McCallister (third base), Camryn Wolf (designated player) and Katlin Schmidt (second base), along with sophomores Kassie McCallister (first base), Ashley Kurima (left field) and Kaesha George (center field).
Three key seniors will depart—Josie Allcock, Victoria Gutierrez and Katie Kurima.
Allcock went 17-6 in the circle in 2017, allowing just one run on five hits in the title game while also driving in two runs.
The speedy Kurima played stellar defense at shortstop and led the team in hits (57) and stolen bases (46) this season.
A catcher, Gutierrez was knocked out of the title game in the second inning after a play at the plate. She later returned in the fifth to an ovation from the Monett faithful.
Allcock noted having her normal battery mate back in the game helped calm her nerves a bit for the final frames.
“It got everybody back up and hyped,” Allcock said.
She was right. It wasn’t long after Gutierrez returned that the Cubs were celebrating a historic victory.
With number 22 still written across her wrist, Allcock summed up what her entire team was thinking.
“It’s a great way to end the year,” she said.