ARLINGTON — The Monroe High School baseball team entered its matchup with two-time defending Wesco North champion Arlington knowing it was the start of the biggest four-game stretch of the season.
Sitting in the middle of a crowded league-title race that features five teams with a legitimate shot at a first-place finish, the Bearcats’ final four games — two against Arlington followed by two versus Snohomish — are against the teams that entered the day holding down the top two spots in the standings.
After a strong performance on Thursday, Monroe moved into a three-way tie for second and kept the Eagles from soaring into first place.
Connor Campbell tossed four strong innings and the Bearcats erupted for six runs in the top of the fifth inning on their way to an 11-6 victory over Arlington.
“It was huge for us,” Monroe coach Dustin Moore said. “We knew coming in that this was a huge series and a big game for us.”
Monroe (9-8, 7-4 Wesco 3A/2A North) is now tied with Arlington and Stanwood for second with Snohomish (6-3 league) holding a slim lead by percentage points. Snohomish has five games remaining while Monroe, Arlington and Stanwood each have three.
The Bearcats sent 12 batters to the plate during their six-run outburst in the fifth.
Kolby Wheadon and Harlan Rowe started the frame with back-to-back singles and a throwing error after a bunt — one of many costly mistakes by Arlington in the field — allowed Wheadon to score. Rowe scored on a wild pitch, Eli Miller plated a run with a bloop single to right field, Rylan Hamton and Ethan Hogan worked consecutive bases-loaded walks and Wheadon capped the scoring with an RBI single for a 10-1 lead.
Conner Scott pushed Monroe’s advantage to 11-1 with a run-scoring single in the sixth.
“We’re real big on hitting strikes,” said Moore, whose squad averages a league-best 7.4 runs per game. “We don’t want to chase out of the zone, but we also don’t want to give the other team a lot of freebies. So, if they throw it in the zone, we want to attack it, and that’s kind of been our approach all year. We’ve been a pretty good hitting team so far and that showed up today.”
Arlington (11-6, 7-4) avoided a mercy-rule loss with three runs in the bottom half of the sixth.
The Eagles loaded the bases with nobody out, Jeren Eldridge drove in a run on a groundout and Cooper McBride blasted a two-run double just in front of the fence in right-center.
It was the first time Arlington sent more than three batters to the plate since the first inning.
The Eagles put two more on the board in the seventh on Aiden Green’s single but couldn’t muster enough offense to make an improbable comeback.
Campbell ran into trouble in the first inning after allowing a pair of doubles that put Arlington up 1-0, but that’s all the Eagles would get off the junior starter, who allowed just one base-runner over his final three innings and picked up the win while surrendering one run on two hits and a walk.
“Really it was just him getting confidence in getting his fastball over early,” Moore said of his starter’s final three innings. “Then, he can work off of that. He’s got a great selection of pitches. If he’s in the zone with the fastball, he’s gonna be real successful.”
Hamton went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Miller, Wheadon and Rowe had two hits apiece for the Bearcats, who had six different players drive in at least one run.
Ty Rusko doubled and reached base in all four plate appearances and Green, Eldridge and McBride each had two RBI for the Eagles.