Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2006

Cubs hope to continue streak against Outlaws

July 6, 2006

When it came to taking a holiday break for the Fourth of July, the Lansing Cubs baseball players may have been the least excited folks in town.

After all, they were playing their best baseball of the summer and had won seven of their last eight games. Why stop now and kill the momentum?

"It's like the major leagues have their All-Star break, and you have a team that's on a hot streak and wishes it could keep playing," Cubs coach Michael Smith said.

Smith acknowledged that although a week away from baseball could slow his squad's momentum, the time off also would be good for players to rest and allow sore arms to recover.

"It's halfway through the season, so they can sit back, relax, do something with their family and do something that's not baseball," Smith said. "Then they'll come back ready to play."

For the Cubs, their first games back are at 6 and 8 p.m. tonight when they play host to the Easton Outlaws in a doubleheader at Lansing High School. The Outlaws (14-0) are the top team in the Leavenworth Baseball League, and the second-place Cubs (8-8 overall, 8-6 LBL) need a couple of wins to make the title race interesting.

"We're going to have to play hard," said Ezra Carpenter, a Cubs outfielder and reserve second baseman. "We need to make the easy plays on defense. We just need to make the plays we're supposed to make and put the bat on the ball."

Those keys to winning are the very things the Cubs have done in their seven victories during their hot streak. Veterans Cody Mohan, Matt Mowery, Lonnie Hansen, Conn Blakley, Logan Ryan and Tylor McNeill have been a steady source of offense, but so have younger players such as Carpenter, Levi Riddle and Dexter Adams.

The biggest key for the Cubs has been their focus. In the games they've struggled, their intensity and focus have been in question. During their hot streak - which includes three doubleheader sweeps - they've played with intensity from the opening pitch of game one.

Blakley said the Outlaws will play with plenty of intensity, and he said it would be important for the Cubs to match them.

"That's going to show us what we're made of right there," Blakley said. "I think we can beat them. They're a good ball team. They're really solid all-around. But if we come out and we play with intensity, pitchers go out and throw strikes, infielders make the plays, then nobody's going to beat you.

"If we go out and beat those guys, that will show me something about these kids."

After today's games, the Cubs and Outlaws will square off again at 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday at Sportsfield.

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