Cubbies close out season with a thriller

Dillon catcher R.J. Fitzgerald secures the ball and reaches for a tag at home plate during the Cubs’ opening game, a loss, to the Deer Lodge Wranglers. The Cubs were competing at the Southern Division tournament for the opportunity to advance to the Montana/Alberta American Legion State A tournament in Helena.

 

The Dillon Cubs ended their 2013 campaign last weekend in the district tournament in Anaconda with a three-game run that pretty much summed up a season full of great performances and entertainment, close calls, senior leadership, youthful mistakes and glimpses of a bright future.

Dillon dropped its first game to Deer Lodge, 10-3, on Thursday, but then bounced right back and easily handled the Bozeman Spikes, 14-4, to set up a showdown on Saturday against the Helena Reps that came down to the bottom of the ninth, when the Reps punched home the winning run to send the Cubs home for the year.

The Cubs started the district tournament against Deer Lodge on Thursday morning at the old field at Washoe Park, maybe the finest place in the state to play baseball. 

The Wranglers had beat the Cubs in both games in Dillon the previous weekend, so Cubs Head Coach Aaron Orme and his team were looking for a little redemption in this game, along with a jump on keeping their season alive by gaining a spot in the upcoming state tournament in Helena.

MJ Simkins got the start for Dillon and, after giving up a couple hits in the first, found his groove and began to deliver.

The Cubs started the second with a couple errors, but led by RJ Fitzgerald were able to get their bats warmed up and tie the game in the third, 2-2.  

But it was pretty much all Deer Lodge the rest of the way, as every Wranglers player registered at least one hit, forcing Dillon Head Coach Aaron Orme to shuffle his pitchers while still trying to keep kids fresh for the games ahead.  

The game proved to be a true game of inches, as every time the Cubs would get something started a Deer Lodge player would make a diving catch or snare a well-hit liner off a Cubs bat.

Although they produced 11 hits in the game, the Cubs only managed to get three runners across the plate while leaving 15 stranded on base in the 10-3 loss to Deer Lodge.

The Cubs again had the early game on Friday, when they squared off against the Bozeman Spikes. Dillon didn’t waste any time getting things started, scoring four in the first. 

Cubs’ hurler Nicky Olsen shut down the Spikes early with a little help from his infield and pretty much controlled the game the rest of the way.

Bozeman switched pitchers in the top of the second to try and stop the strong bats of the Dillon team, but the move proved futile against the Cubs, who were seeing the ball well and placing their hits exactly where they wanted them to land.  

A two-out rally carried Dillon to a 9-2 lead in the third.

Bozeman mustered a rally of its own, hitting two of the hardest balls Dillon has seen all year.

But the young Cubs were not rattled. They continued to make routine outs in the field and stroke the ball when they were at the plate to sustain their lead.  

The Spikes put four different pitchers on the mound in the game but it did not help, as Dillon hammered out 16 hits on the day.

The game ended early when Fitzgerald singled up the middle in the seventh, scoring Cole Miotke and giving the Cubs a 14-4 win on the 10-run mercy rule.

 On Saturday afternoon, Miotke was on the bump for Dillon and showed yet again why he is one of the best pitchers in the state. He worked fast from the mound and was able to shut down the Reps through three innings.  

Ethan Tatarka inflicted the first damage for Dillon when he bounced a ball off the left field fence for an extra-base hit, and then got driven home by Simkins. The damage would of been far deeper to Helena in the inning if the Reps hadn’t have made a diving catch in deep left to leave Dillon with the bases loaded.

Miotke continued to serve up his best, holding Helena until the sixth inning, when the Reps scored two more runs on two Cubs errors to take the lead. 

Heading into the top of the eighth, Dillon was still down, 3-2, when Miotke worked a walk, stole second and then reached third on a passed ball. RJ Fitzgerald stepped to the plate and hit yet another shot in the gap to score Cole and tie up the game at threes.

The Cubs would hold the Reps in the bottom of the eighth, but could not get a hit in the ninth and left the door open for Helena to win it. The Reps had the top of their lineup at the plate, and after the Cubs defense retired the first batter, Helena put a man on second and with one stroke of the bat scored on a close play at the plate to win, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.

The Cubs played good ball, but suffered too many mental lapses that eventually led to nine errors and the season-ending loss.  

A young team, the Cubs no doubt learned a lot from their two seniors, Cole Miotke and Eathyn Peterson, and will be back stronger next year.  

The Cubs will celebrate their season Thursday night with an awards banquet at Barretts Park.