The Kincardine Cubs kicked off a busy final leg of the season Friday night with a big win in London against the Oakridge Reds.
It was an important victory for Kincardine, as the Reds and Cubs entered Friday night's game with identical 8-4 records, tied for second place in the Thames Valley Senior Baseball League.
It was Kincardine's first game of a stretch that will see them play five games in the final 10 days of the TVSBL regular season.
For the first time this season, the Cubs had a mix of players for a road game. Conversely, Oakridge had a tough time getting players to the ballpark on Friday night. They started the game with just 10 players, including their designated hitter.
After a quick first inning, the Cubbies opened things up in the second. Greg Stepaniak led off with an infield single, and one out later Jeremy Dinsmore lined a double down the third baseline, perfectly executing a hit-and-run to put runners on second and third base. Mark Richards scored Stepaniak with a single to right field, and Jimmy Kritz doubled to left centre, which scored Dinsmore and again left runners on second and third base. Dane Dunlop cashed him in with a single, and Curtis Cobean grounded out, but picked up an RBI in the process. Ryan Enright then hit a two-out double to the gap, which scored Dunlop. Stepaniak, batting for the second time in the inning, scored Enright with another single that glanced off the pitcher. Eleven players batted in the inning for Kincardine, and it was 7-0 when it was all said and done.
Kritz, on the hill for Kincardine, fired a second consecutive 1-2-3 inning, putting the Cubs right back at the plate. Kincardine picked up where they left off, this time getting some help from some shoddy defence from Oakridge. Richards walked between two outs, when the Oakridge defence literally dropped the ball for pitcher Kevin Lunter. Dunlop reached base on an error by the first baseman, Curt Cobean walked and then both scored when Johnny Campbell reached base on the first baseman's second error of the game. The inning ended with Campbell getting caught stealing and the Cubs holding a 10-0 lead.
As has been a problem for the Cubs this year, the concentration faded and a few mental lapses allowed the Reds to claw back into the game. After tossing three perfect innings, Kritz made the cardinal sin of checking out his line on the score sheet, and things quickly went sour. After striking out the first batter of the fourth inning, he allowed three singles and a double, which made it 10-2. Oakridge could have added another, but Dinsmore made a strong relay throw on the double to cut down a run at the plate.
Kincardine's bats fell silent in the top of the inning, and the Reds went to work again. This time, they touched up reliever Casey Harris for a pair of runs. Four singles and a walk was the line score, but a bout of wildness was truly to blame for the two Reds crossing the plate. Harris pitched his way out of a jam, however, retiring the final two batters of the inning. The sixth was similar, with the Cubs going down meekly and Harris struggling to find the zone. Two lead-off walks and a wild pitch scored another Oakridge run, and things would have been much worse if it were not for a nice double play turned by Dinsmore, his second defensive gem of the night.
The Reds kept on coming in the seventh, while the Cubs went down in order. Scott Austin entered the game after Oakridge scored another run to make it a 10-5 game. Austin closed the game out with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Kincardine scored one more run in the top of the inning on an Oakridge error and a pair of hits from Richards and Austin. The game ended after eight innings due to the league time limit.
Kincardine was to continue the road swing with a game last night in St. Thomas against the Cardinals. The Cardinals entered the game in fourth place in the TVSBL with a 7-5 record. Kincardine edged out St. Thomas 6-5 at home earlier this summer. Then tonight (Wednesday), the Cubs head to Mitchell for the final meeting of the rivals this season. The Cubs have handled the Astros three times this season, and will be looking to sweep the series. The final game of the TVSBL regular season will see Kincardine host the London Angels Aug. 24. That is a 7 p.m. start on Tout Field at Connaught Park. That game is a make-up game from a postponed game.
Once the regular season has ended, Kincardine will set sights on another All-Ontario title. The Cubs will be in Port Lambton on Labour Day weekend to take part in the B All-Ontario Championship tournament. The competition will be stiffer this year, but the Cubs have the confidence of being defending champions.
Helping the Cubs ready for the OBA tournament will be KMBA product Scott Ballantyne, as he again brings his Laurier Golden Hawks squad to town for an exhibition contest on Wednesday, Aug. 27. First pitch will be at 7:30 p.m., and the game is sure to be a barnburner as Ballantyne always brings a talented squad to take on the veteran laden Cubs. For more on that game, don't miss a preview in next week's print edition of The Kincardine Independent.