Archive for Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mental errors costly for Cubs

July 27, 2006

— Cody Mohan wants to play another baseball game or two with the Lansing Cubs before beginning his college career at Maple Woods.

Whether or not he gets to is up to his teammates. The Cubs will be without Mohan at 7 tonight when they play an elimination game at Tonganoxie in the Leavenworth Baseball League Tournament. Mohan will miss the game because he has a scheduled workout with his college team, but he'd like to be back in uniform for another game Friday.

With a victory today, the Cubs will move on in the tournament. A loss, however, and their season will be done. They fell into the loser's bracket after dropping a 10-2 decision to the Easton Outlaws Wednesday night at Padilla Field.

The loss resembled numerous others this summer as the Cubs were plagued by errors and numerous rally-killing base running blunders.

"It's double elimination, so now they're on their heels," Mohan said. "They've got to come out and they've got to be ready to fire at it, jump on teams and be ready to go. Hopefully they come out hard and execute."

"I gave them a speech. I said, 'I want to play Friday. You guys have got to come out and play hard and you've got to want it. You've got to want to live to play another day.'"

The Cubs will have their hands full making that happen if they give a repeat performance of Wednesday's effort.

Things were rocky from the start. Tylor McNeill led off with a line drive up the middle, but moments later he was thrown out while trying to steal second.

Then came the defensive miscues. Easton's Josh Barnes led off the bottom of the first with a single. He advanced to second when Jeremy Crook laid down a sacrifice bunt. Then the Outlaws took advantage of a dropped pop fly and an overthrow to score two runs.

After a drama-free second inning, John Tytla put Lansing on the board with a towering 400-foot home run to center field. That pulled the Cubs within 2-1.

"I was hoping we'd ride it and get a big streak," Tytla said. "But nothing really happened."

A hot streak appeared to be brewing as the next two batters walked, Mike Sherman missed a sign, though, and was thrown out trying to steal third. The next two outs came quickly and the inning was over.

After looking sharp during the first two innings Cubs starter Matt Mowery struggled with his control in the third inning. He hit a batter, walked three more and gave up three hits. In all, the Outlaws plated three runs and pushed their lead to 5-1.

The Cubs tried to rally in the fourth, and they were in great position to do so before more base-running gaffes killed the momentum. Robert Lewis earned a leadoff walk. Mohan laced a single to right field. Then Conn Blakley was hit by a pitch. That loaded the bases with no outs. Back-to-back strikeouts threatened to end the rally prematurely, but Tytla earned a two-out walk that scored Lewis and made it 5-2. Sherman then popped out to end the inning.

Easton took advantage of a double, two walks and an error to score two more runs in the fourth, but Lansing once again tried to battle back. Nick Mowery led off the fifth inning with a walk. Jacob Hansen and McNeill both struck out. Then Lewis walked. With Mohan at the plate looking for a key base hit, Mowery got caught not paying attention on second and Easton pitcher Chris Barnes threw him out to end the inning.

The Outlaws scored three more runs in the bottom of the fifth to complete the run-spread victory.

"It was just a terrible execution of baseball," Mohan said of the numerous mistakes that contributed to the loss. "(Tuesday) night against Geiger we won the game because everybody played hard, everybody was in it and we executed. Tonight guys got lazy, missed signals, missed signs and didn't execute the game the way it's meant to be played. The game is meant to be played hard. That's how you win games. Some guys don't understand it yet, but that's something they're going to have to learn as they grow with the game."

Cubs coach Michael Smith said some of the players might not have liked being lectured by Mohan, but he said it was important that they take his message to heart.

"Cody got on them between innings. He said something to some of the guys about some of the mistakes they made. A couple of guys got their feelings hurt, and that's the game," Smith said. "Cody's a leader. That's why he's on this team. Guys need to speak up. He's not saying it to be mean. He's not saying it to hurt your feelings. He's saying it because he wants to make you a better ball player. He wants to win."

If the Cubs rediscover their focus and eliminate the mental mistakes that have plagued them, then Smith said they should win today and be competitive with any team in the league. But, he said, the mistakes have to disappear.

"You've got to be focused every inning, especially against a team like this," Smith said. "This was a game we should have won."

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