Dillon Cubs’ losing skid continues over weekend

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Welcome homer!

Cubs players greet Kale Konen after he blasted a home run in the second game of their doubleheader against Helena last week. M.P. Regan photo

Much as it can be with coming up empty from a long weekend of flyfishing, the explanations behind losing streaks in baseball can seem both obvious and mystical —as simple as a belt-high fastball down the middle of the plate, or vexing as a knuckle-curve on a windy afternoon blustering dust into a batter’s eyes.

And so it goes with the Dillon Cubs current skid, which reached nine games last week with a pair of consecutive nights on the wrong side of the doubleheader broom.

On Thursday in Three Forks, the Gallatin Valley Outlaws swept the Cubs, 8-2 and 10-0, finishing the job about 24 hours before the Helena Reps took 8-5 and 6-4 wins in Dillon.

“Our kids are competing,” said Cubs Head Coach Greg Fitzgerald after the tight, well-played games on Friday at Cubs Field.

“We’re just spotting teams too many runs,” added Fitzgerald of one of the more prevalent and persistent aspects of the Cubs’ woes over the past month.

That recurring nightmare saw and re-saw the Cubs fall behind Friday, 3-0 and 6-1, early in Friday’s defeats to Helena, after having to try to climb out of holes of 7-2 and 7-0 in the early going at Three Forks.

Hitting, or the untimely lack thereof, also plagued the Cubs again on Thursday and Friday.

“We’ve got to put more balls in play,” said Fitzgerald a day after his Cubs got no-hit Thursday by GVO’s Patrick Dietz, who notched 12 of the 15 outs by strikeout in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run mercy rule.

The Cubs recorded nine hits and four walks in the other game against GVO, but netted just a two runs in Three Forks from those 13 base runners.

“We’ve put a lot of guys in scoring positions but didn’t plate a lot of runs,” said Fitzgerald, after his team left 17 of its runners at least 90 feet from home plate on Friday.

“They know we have to take better advantage of those opportunities.”

Kale Konen didn’t wait for opportunity to knock on Friday, instead knocking a pitch well over the left-field fence in the final inning at Cubs Field in the second game against Helena, during the early stages of which he clobbered a ball off the centerfield fence for an RBI triple.

“When his timing is on, Kale hits the ball as well as anyone,” said Fitzgerald, who also got good work in the batter’s box from Pete Gibson.

“Pete Gibson was phenomenal,” said Fitzgerald of the powerful BCHS alum who will head to the gridiron to play football for the University of Montana Western after the Cubs season wraps up this summer.

“He put every ball in play. I don’t think they got him out today,” said Fitzgerald of the versatile veteran Gibson, who went 4 for 4 in Friday’s nightcap after collecting a pair of doubles and a base on balls in the opener against Helena.

“That Gibson for them—he’s a tough out,” sighed Reps Head Coach Dick Fusezy.

The Cubs proved a tough out against Helena, coming from behind in both games with late rallies….but never quite getting over the hump onto the right side of the score.

“Games against Dillon are always tough, close battles,” noted Fuzesy, whose Reps grinded out a pair of close wins over Dillon in Helena on June 22.

“So, even when we got a good early lead, we kept saying, ‘Take care of the simple stuff. They are going to get guys on and keep coming at us,’” recalled Fusezy, who garnered four strikeouts and 1 2/3 inning of scoreless relief work from Luke Dowdy at the tail end of Friday’s opener.

“Our closers did a good job. Luke came in that first game, kept them off balance,” said Fusezy of the hardthrowing righthander who recorded the final five outs for Helena after replacing finesse-pitching southpaw starter Dylan Wilcut.

“We thought the contrast in style could work.”

The Cubs pitched and fielded relatively well in good conditions on Friday, but victory eluded them again—and then again.

“I thought overall both teams played pretty clean baseball. It was a beautiful day. That was the first time in a long time we haven’t had to deal with wind. I think our kids put on a pretty good show,” said Fitzgerald, who has been forced to start a lot of younger, inexperienced players and field veterans out of position in recent weeks to accommodate the absences of his son Jace and Connor Curnow—two the Cubs’ top pitchers, fielders and hitters.

“We haven’t had our full roster together for awhile. We need to get some continuity. We’re playing a lot of guys in positions they haven’t played before for us. Damon Skradski was at shortstop for the first time for us and did well. Cole Pulliam did a good job at third base, where he hadn’t really played a lot. Conner Vezina did really well at catcher—that’s the first time he’s caught for us,” said Fitzgerald, who had to regroup his team quickly for a doubleheader in Anaconda last night that began after the Dillon Tribune went to press.

“It would be nice to win a game. We haven’t won a game for awhile,” said Fitzgerald, who led the Cubs on a late run last season to the State A tourney.

“So, we’ll take stock of that and start up again next week.”

Next up for the Cubs, a home doubleheader against the Bozeman Bucks set to start at 3 p.m. on Cubs Field in Ray Lynch Park on Thursday, July 8. The Cubs will then travel to Missoula to take on the Mavericks in a single, nine-inning game scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

See next week’s Dillon Tribune for recaps of all this week’s Dillon Cubs’ games.