Only a ninth inning rally by the Oakridge Reds prevented the Kincardine Cubs from a double header sweep in their first action at home on Sunday.
The Cubs made their Thames Valley Senior Baseball League home debut at Connaught Park Sunday, with two games on the docket. The Cubbies, who defeated the defending league champs from Mitchell on the road to start the regular season, looked poised to become 3-0 before the Reds rallied in the top of the ninth for a 9-7 win. Kincardine had already thumped the London Giants earlier in the day.
Chris Inkster got the start on the bump against the Giants, and threw four solid innings with three strikeouts, three walks and no runs allowed. Kincardine’s offence also got out to a good start, scoring two runs in the first and third innings before adding one more run in the fourth. Greg Stepaniak was 4-5 at the plate with a double and three singles.
Eric Elliott took over for Inkster in the fifth inning, and pitched three innings. He had three Ks in the first two innings, but things unravelled a bit in the seventh.
“After a lead-off double, I lost my control and ended up allowing three runs and plunking two batters,” said Eilliott. “However, it didn’t matter as the offence was on fire.”
The Cubs scored eight runs from the fifth to seventh innings, including four runs in the seventh inning to end this game early. The mercy rule was invoked with the score 13-3 in the seventh.
With the loss, the Giants fell to 0-2 on the season, while the Cubs moved to 2-0.
The Oakridge Reds were also 2-0, with wins over St. Thomas and Byron, and waiting for the Cubs.
The Reds were a much more threatening opponent for the second half of Sunday’s double bill on Tout Field, though Kincardine looked to be in control until late in the ball game.
Newcomer James Kritz took the mound to start this game. He gave up two runs in the first inning, but would end up pitching three solid innings, whiffing five batters and allowing no more runners to cross the plate.
His teammates were quick to come to his aid, evening the score in the bottom half of the first. Dane Dunlop and Curt Cobean both scored to make things 2-2. It was still 2-2 in the fourth inning, when Ryan Fraser took over on the mound. He lasted three innings, walked two, struck out four and allowing four runs. That left the Cubs down 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
A two-out rally cashed in five runs for Kincardine, as the Cubs took an 8-6 lead. Two of those runs came when Inkster laced a 1-0 fastball 30 feet over the left field fence for his first home run of the season.
Tyler Middleton, another newcomer to the Cubs, took over the hill for the seventh inning, and couldn’t be touched. He struck out six straight batters. But in the top of the ninth, when things seemed to good to be true, Oakridge rallied to score three runs and make it a 9-7 game. Kincardine was unable to score in the bottom half of the ninth, despite a hard hit ball from Caden Allingham.
Elsewhere in the TVSBL, the Reds defeated the Byron Bulldogs 11-7 in a mid-week game, while on the weekend St. Thomas upset the LIstowel Legionnaires 8-3. The Legionnaires, however, bounced back with a narrow 4-3 win over the Mitchell Astros Sunday.
That leaves Oakridge alone at the front of the pack in the TVSBL standings at 4-0. The Cubs sit second with a 2-1 record, while three teams – London Area, Listowel and St. Thomas – are all even with 1-1 records. Three teams remain without a win, including the defending champions from Mitchell. Byron is 0-1, while the Astros and the London Giants have both started the year with 0-2 records.
The Cubs will travel to Byron tonight (Wednesday) for an 8 p.m. start. It’s the first of three straight road games for Kincardine, with a June 7 game scheduled in Mitchell and a June 9 affair that has them visiting the London Area Angels.
While the Cubs are on the road, conditions should be improving at home. The team has paid for the installation of an in-ground sprinkler system for the infield of Tout Field at Connaught Park. In recent years, the Cubs have voiced concerns about the conditions, and safety concerns, of the diamond and have put countless hours into improving the field. The sprinkler system should make things better, and safer for all baseball players to use Tout Field, including our minor baseball teams.