Cubs club A’s in twin bill sweep

Annual Gail Whitworth Memorial Game Sunday vs. Butte Miners
By 
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Over the top

Connor Curnow delivers a strike during Game One of the Dillon Cubs doubleheader sweep of the Anaconda A’s last Saturday in Dillon. M.P. Regan photo

The first inning didn’t say it all.

But it said more than enough, loudly enough, to get the point across, in the Dillon Cubs home doubleheader sweep of the Anaconda A’s.

In their first at-bats of the day, the Cubs cracked out eight hits—all of them hit hard, half over the heads of A’s outfielders—to score ten first-inning runs to propel Dillon to an 11-1 opening-game victory followed by a 14-10 triumph in the night cap at Ray Lynch Park in Dillon.

The early climax came on a triple to the centerfield fence by Jace Fitzgerald to score two and give Dillon a double-digit-run lead the A’s only got a brief peek inside the rest of the way, thanks in large part to a fine Game One pitching performance by the Cubs’ Connor Curnow.

“My fastball was working well at first and that set up the curveball, so I kept throwing those,” said Curnow of a breaking ball that consistently froze A’s batters and his heater which has heated up considerably since last season.

“I’ve been training and working out a lot. And I think I grew about four or five inches from last year. I am able to stretch out farther toward the plate, that gives batters less time to react,” said Curnow, who came within an out of pitching a complete game in the opener on Saturday.

Pete Gibson put the exclamation point on the win by recording that final out on the mound and then lining a double to the left-field fence in the inning’s bottom half to bring home Kale Konen (who’d lasered a single to centerfield earlier in the inning).

That gave the Cubs an 11-1 lead and invoked the ten-run mercy rule to end the contest scheduled for seven innings after only five frames.

The Cubs also went off early in Game Two—and needed to— scoring a half-dozen runs in the second inning to pull ahead of the revived A’s, on the way to a 14-10 triumph.

With the bases loaded, the Cubs’ Connor Vezina took an inside fastball to bring home a run to make it 12-6.

The A’s bounced back late in the game, scoring four times in the top of the sixth to get within four runs of the hosts.

But as he did in Game One, Gibson, who notched a two-RBI triple to leftfield earlier in the game, came on late in relief to shut down Anaconda and notch the Cubs third-straight victory.

Curnow ended the day with a fine play, sprinting back from first base to somehow make a twisting, sliding grab on a devlish bloop into short right field— and then quickly rising to double up an A’s baserunner, who was understandably astonished that Curnow had caught the ball.

Curnow contributed with his bat, as well as his arm and glove, clubbing home the goahead runs in the high-scoring nightcap by lining a single to centerfield to bring home two teammates and break a 6-6 tie, putting Dillon ahead for good.

“It was a 2-1 count and he gave me a good pitch. I put a pretty good swing on it and was able to drive in two runs,” recalled Curnow of what turned out to be the game-winning hit in the Cubs third-straight win.

The Cubbies also got contributions last weekend from some of their younger players, with Colin Herman, Vezina and Dean Smith all logging significant playing time in the doubleheader.

“I really didn’t think I’d be starting at this point in the season, but we lost a couple of guys to injury,” said Vezina, who has spent years in the Cubs system.

“We have less players than we did last year, but we are a really tight-knit group.”

Other Cubs, besides Curnow, flashed some good glove work in the doubleheader that featured a bang-bang-bang series of events that almost led to that rarest of baseball events—a triple play. With runners on first and second late in Game Two, Cubs pitcher Johnny Reiser snared a line drive hit back to him on the mound, threw to second to nail the baserunner (who taken off toward third, thinking the ball was destined to be a line single to centerfield), and the ball then got fired to a stretching Curnow at first, just a shade of a second too late to nail the other straying baserunner for a third out on one play.

Gibson turned in another excellent fielding effort while playing third base on a deceptively difficult play that was the specialty of that position’s all-time gloved great, Mike Schmidt, when he charged a slow roller, grabbed and seamlessly fired it to first to nail the hard-charging runner seemingly on his way to an infield single.

Next up for the Cubs, another doubleheader tonight at Butte, where the Cubbies will take on the Miners at 6 p.m.

On Sunday, June 28, Dillon will host the Miners for a twin bill at Ray Lynch Park that will feature the annual Gail Whitworth Memorial Game in honor of the Cubs’ great late, manager.

“We always try to make it a fun day at the park,” said Gail Whitworth’s daughter, Lee Ann, of the annual tribute game to her father now in its fourth season.

“My dad had a great sense of humor. He used to say, you gotta have fun with baseball,” recalled Whitworth of her father, who also taught his players how to succeed at baseball, leading the Cubbies to nearly 500 wins and a 1993 Montana State A crown during his almost two-decade tenure as Dillon’s manager.

Free admission will be provided Sunday to senior league players in honor of Whitworth’s commitment to developing youth players.

The Cubs will also celebrate Whitworth’s profound legacy for area baseball on Sunday and raise money in a variety of ways for the Dillon Cubs organization.

“That is what this game is all about for us—helping continue the tradition of baseball in Dillon and in our family,” said Whitworth, whose family will be handing out an annual award named for her father to the current Cub who exemplifies the values he taught for life on and off the field, as well as to an area senior league player.

“We’re just encouraging any former players of my dad’s and everyone else to come out and to say ‘hi’ to my mom and watch the Cubs and help encourage the senior league players who will be the Cubs’ future.”

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