Archive for Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cubs roughed up, rocked at Zone Tournament

July 27, 2006

— If you'd only seen the 21-5 result on the scoreboard, it would've been easy to suggest the Lansing Cubs didn't show up ready to play their Class AAA Zone Baseball Tournament game Friday against the Blue Valley Huskies.

But if you'd been there for the start of the game, well : you probably would've reached the same conclusion. Tylor McNeill certainly did. It was tough for him not to as he looked around a few minutes before the game started and only saw half his team there.

"I could tell we weren't going to be on the ball right away when everyone wasn't there, warmed up and stretched out," said McNeill, who began the game in the outfield and eventually pitched and played second base. "I wasn't expecting much after that. We had six people. When everyone should've been here almost ready to go, we didn't have half our team here."

A full squad was on hand by the time the game began, but it was clear the Cubs weren't loose and ready to play. Errors abounded early and the Cubs paid the price.

Blue Valley jumped on top quickly in the top of the first inning as it used four singles, a hit batter and an error to score three runs. The Huskies plated two more runs in the second as they knocked a single and a double off Cubs starter John Tytla. Another error also contributed to the runs scoring.

The Cubs (14-15) struck back in the bottom of the second. They opened the inning with back-to-back walks, an error, a hit batter and another walk. A fourth walk and a single by Conn Blakley capped the inning as the Cubs plated four runs.

McNeill took the mound in relief midway through the third inning and allowed only one run despite facing a bases loaded jam. He worked out of another sticky situation in the fourth when he picked off a runner at second.

Just as things appeared to be stabilizing for the Cubs, the Huskies reignited at the plate. They rattled off five consecutive hits and knocked McNeill from the game. Robert Lewis entered in relief, but he was welcomed to the mound with an error and a single before he got a ground ball double play to end the inning. It was too little too late, however, as the Huskies held a comfortable 11-4 lead.

"They started putting things together, and then our team started collapsing," McNeill said.

Blakley earned a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth and later scored on a single by Matt Mowery. That made it 11-5, but that's all the damage Lansing was able to do as it left two runners on base.

Blue Valley added two more runs off three hits and an error in the seventh inning. Anchored by a grand slam to right field, the Huskies scored eight more runs in the eighth to cap their run-spread victory.

The Cubs' six errors were only part of the problem. They also struggled at the plate with just three hits. Meanwhile, the Huskies scattered 25 hits and made just one fielding miscue.

The Cubs' quiet exit was disheartening after they made so much noise during their 10-6 victory over the Leavenworth Legends in the tournament opener July 18. After that, however, the Cubs dropped a 17-0 decision Thursday to the eventual champion Lawrence Raiders before being eliminated by Blue Valley.

"I think we were just so amped up in that first game, and then we played Lawrence in that second game and I honestly think we were intimidated," Cubs coach Michael Smith said. "I think if we played any of the other teams, I'm not saying we would've beat them, but we would've been more competitive."

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