The league-leading Cubs beat the Lions, 10-8, in a Douglas County Amateur Baseball Assn. game June 23 at Youth Sports Inc.
The Cubs capitalized on good defense, timely hitting and a strong pitching performance from starter Steve Melton, improving to 12-2 on the season. Despite being down enough players that they were forced to borrow one from the 11-U Stallions, the Lions kept things close for most of the game, and battled bravely until the game's final out.
Both teams' pitchers started the game well.
Lions starter Nick Jaimez allowed a hit to Cubs shortstop Ryan Gutierrez in the first inning, but got out of the inning without allowing a run.
Melton then retired the Lions in order in the bottom half of the frame.
The Lions again kept the Cubs' offense off the scoreboard in the second inning, this time doing it with defense. First baseman Shelby Politte dug a throw out of the dirt to force center fielder Alex Hall out at first base for the first out of the inning.
Cubs first baseman Cale Nieder reached base on an infield single and eventually moved to third. Second baseman Nick Dunkle came to the plate with two outs and laid down a surprise bunt to try to bring Nieder home. Jaimez fielded the ball cleanly, though, and tossed to first to retire Dunkle.
Jaimez helped his own cause in the bottom of the inning, hitting a double to the gap in left-center field. Lions catcher Sean Landreth followed with a single that scored Jaimez for the first run of the game.
With Landreth on third and one out, Gutierrez scooped up a grounder by left fielder Brandon Willis. The shortstop first looked to third, freezing Landreth and preventing him from heading home, and then threw out Willis at first. The play proved costly to the Lions when Melton struck out the next batter to end the inning.
Lions' shortstop Will Simons turned the tables on Gutierrez in the top of the third inning, making a nice play on a ground ball by the Cubs shortstop.
The Cubs finally got on the board in the fourth inning on right fielder Will Pellett's single that drove in catcher Bobby Hall, tying the game at 1-all.
The Cubs took the lead when Nieder brought Hall home, and Melton then smashed a double to right-center field, just past the outstretched glove of center fielder Zeph Wiggins that scored Neider. Third baseman Eric McCarthy drove Melton in and the Cubs took a 4-1 lead.
The Lions battled back in the bottom half of the inning though, when Jaimez hit a blast to the gap in right-center field to score Wiggins. Landreth then hit a double and scored on Cubs' throwing errors, tying the game at 4-all.
Cubs third baseman Eric McCarthy ended the inning with a clean play on a ground ball off the bat of left fielder Brand Willis.
In the fifth inning, with Simons now pitching for the Lions, Gutierrez singled and came around to score on a hit by Pellett, and the Cubs retook the lead by a run. Simons ended the inning by throwing out Nieder on a ground ball.
The Cubs also had a new pitcher in the bottom half of the inning -- Pellett, who struck out the first batter he faced. He got into trouble soon after though because of walks and a hit batsman. With the bases loaded, Wiggins walked, tying the game at 5-all.
Things didn't look good with for the Cubs when Jaimez strode to the plate. But Nieder saved the day at first base, snaring Jaimez's line drive out of the air to end the threat.
The Cubs went up for good in the sixth inning, though, when Melton, McCarthy, Dunkle and Bobby Hall all scored, primarily as a result of fielding errors.
The Cubs extended their lead to five in the seventh and final inning when Pellet scored on a ground out by Alex Hall. Melton then crushed a ball over the center fielder's head for a double, but right fielder Connor Kring ended the threat, catching a fly ball by McCarthy to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lions provided some scary moments for Cubs fans.
Wiggins doubled to drive in Politte. Jaimez then singled to score Wiggins and bring the Lions within two runs, 10-8. The Lions had one more chance with Landreth, the tying run, at the plate. Unfortunately for them, Landreth couldn't get the job done, popping out to second base and ending the game.
The Cubs coaching staff was proud of their team's continued success.
"They've had a great season and they played their hearts out," said Cubs co-coach Jared Nieder.
The Lions dropped to 7-6 on the season with the loss. The team's coaches were happy with the Lions' performance, though, especially given a shortage of players.
"It was a great game, win or lose," Lions coach Brit King said. "A 10-8 ball game when you're coaching 12-year-olds is a lot of fun. No one hangs their head after a game like that."