Cubs

Montini captures fourth straight 5A title

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Montini captures fourth straight 5A title

By Mike Clark
Season Pass

CHAMPAIGN The image conjured up in recent years by the phrase Montini football is probably a long pass to Jordan Westerkamp or Joe Borsellino, or maybe a twisting, weaving run by Dimitri Taylor.

Hard-nosed, defensive-minded play may not be what quickly comes to mind. But it got the job done for the Broncos Saturday morning when they won their fourth consecutive Class 5A state title, 19-6 over Morris at Memorial Stadium.

Taylor ran 74 yards for a touchdown on Montinis first offensive play and caught a 48-yard scoring pass from Alex Wills just before halftime. Otherwise, Montini (12-2) was limited to five field-goal tries by Andrew Harte, two of which were successful.

The difference was a Montini defense that gave up 264 yards, but just one touchdown and that was with 47 seconds left in the game.

It was a marked difference from last years final, when the Broncos won the highest scoring playoff game in state history: a 70-45 shootout with Joliet Catholic when they gave up 515 rushing yards and six touchdowns to Ty Isaac.

Last year the defense didnt do so well, Montini defensive lineman Fred Beaugard said. We knew this whole season we couldnt be like

that. ... We had to step it up.

And the Broncos had to do it against Morris (12-2), which got back to state for the first time since 2007 with a grind-it-out style.

It was a physical game, Morris coach Alan Thorson said. Thats how we played all year. Were a smash-mouth, physical team.

But Beaugard (nine tackles, three sacks) and the rest of the Montini defense kept the Redskins ground game mostly in check. Morris rushed for 179 yards, though 70 of them came on two plays.

That got the Redskins out of their comfort zone, which was the Broncos game plan.

We knew that the key to their offense was running the ball, Beaugard said. We had to get them into a passing game. Once we do that, our defensive backs have the ability to cover their wide receivers.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos leaned on Taylor (18 carries, 165 yards). His early touchdown ended a Montini trend of falling behind early in the playoffs.

For us to get the lead early was huge, Montini coach Chris Andriano said. I think it got our defense fired up.

Taylor provided another emotional boost with his scoring catch 2:16 before halftime, which put Montini up 13-0. Harte added field goals of 23 and 31 yards in the third quarter to make it 19-0.

Morris got on the board with Zach Cinnamons 33-yard scoring pass to Jeff Perry in the final minute. But it couldnt keep Andriano from becoming the fourth coach to win four consecutive state titles.

Four in a row, Ive got to pinch myself, Andriano said.

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

Javy Baez has only seen one pitch in the Cubs-Phillies series, but that's all he needs to make a major impact.

"El Mago" notched his first walk-off RBI since May 8, 2016 in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, lacing the only pitch he saw from Juan Nicasio down the right-field line. Baez had missed the entire series to that point due to a heel injury he suffered Sunday in Washington D.C. and actually underwent an MRI before Tuesday's game to make sure there was no other damage.

Baez's single put the finishing touches on the Cubs' first win this season when trailing after eight innings. They now lead the majors with five walk-off victories.

After another blown lead by the bullpen (the third in the last week), the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-1, but Kris Bryant led off with a walk and then Anthony Rizzo doubled. After a Willson Contreras flyout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and then Albert Almora Jr. hit a tapper in front of home plate that Bryant just barely beat out at home to tie the game.

Then came Baez, as Joe Maddon opted to go to the hobbled star in place of Daniel Descalso, who was 0-for-4 on the evening to that point.

Prior to the ninth inning, Maddon wasn't sure if Baez would even be available to pinch hit in the game, but trainer P.J. Mainville taped up Javy's foot/ankle at the start of the inning and gave the Cubs skipper the all-clear.

"Just give PJ some credit on the tape job," Maddon joked. "This is right out of the Lombardi era kind of stuff. Tape and aspirin — go ahead and play. That's what everybody's football coach said."

If Baez hadn't delivered the walk-off hit and the Cubs wound up in extra innings, Maddon said he didn't know if Baez would be able to even play the field on his injured heel and the only player left on the bench was backup catcher Victor Caratini.

"In moments like that, you can only think it so far," Maddon said. "And then at some point, you gotta throw it at the wall and see what happens."

Maddon doesn't know if Baez will be able to play Wednesday night, but plans to make two lineups and then check with the shortstop to see about his status when he arrives at the field.

Baez's Cubs teammates are no longer surprised at the ridiculous things he does or how easy he makes some very difficult tasks look. Bryant joked he was actually upset Baez didn't hit it over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

"I don't even know what's going on with him half the time anyway," Bryant said. "It's like, 'oh, Javy's pinch-hitting. And then I was debating like, 'don't swing at the first pitch," but I was like, 'no, it's Javy.' 

"It was awesome. He just like goes up there and swings the bat. If he didn't have to run to first base, he wouldn't. It's just like, 'I'm so good, I'm just gonna get this hit and then we're gonna go home.'"

However awe-inspiring Baez's Kirk Gibson impression was, the only reason the Cubs were even in the spot to win the game at that moment was because of the hustle and aggressive baserunning from Bryant. 

His game-tying run on Almora's tapper in front of the plate was huge, but his first trip around the bases was even more impressive. 

With Bryant on second base and Rizzo on first in the first inning, both runners were off on the full-count pitch to Contreras, who hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. As Segura made the throw to first to retire Contreras, Bryant never hesitated around third base and scored on some heads-up, aggressive baserunning that looked like a page right out of the El Mago Playbook.

Bryant said as he was running, he thought about what it's like to play the left side of the infield on such a routine play and felt like he could catch the Phillies by surprise.

"I saw [third base coach Brian Butterfield] holding me up, too, and I just kept going," Bryant said. "I almost felt like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was kind of like one of those experiences that it's hard to explain, but I just kept going."

That run was all Jose Quintana and the Cubs needed for six innings, until Carl Edwards Jr. came on in relief for the seventh. Edwards allowed a leadoff single and then a double two batters later, giving way to Brandon Kintzler with two outs.

Kintzler gave up a groundball single up the middle to Andrew McCutchen and just like that, the Cubs' thin 1-0 lead had evaporated in the blink of an eye. And with the offensive issues (they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Baez's hit), that looked to be enough to send the Cubs to their second straight defeat in frustrating fashion.

But the magic of El Mago and Bryant allowed the Cubs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and send fans home happy and with a little more belief that this just might be a special summer on Chicago's North Side.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

Hear from Jake Arrieta after his first start as a visitor at Wrigley Field, including his thoughts on facing his former teammates and the standing ovation he received during his first at-bat (1:30). Then, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by MLB Network's Mark DeRosa to discuss the Cubs' leadoff spot, the team outperforming expectations so far, and much more (8:15).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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