To say the showdown between the Sidewinders and Cubs on June 13 was a pitchers' duel wouldn't be completely true.
Jonathan Pederson, who started for the Sidewinders, is usually the team's starting catcher and early on it didn't look like his club would come out on top with him on the mound.
However, Pederson's pitching persistence paid off as he struck out nine batters in seven innings to lead the Sidewinders to a 3-2 victory at Holcom Red Field in Heinrich League action.
"Jonathan did a great job," Sidewinders coach Greg Anderson said. "He's our number one catcher, so when he gets a chance to get on the mound, he gets pretty excited about it."
Pederson started the game on fire, striking out three of the first four batters he faced.
Not to be outdone though, Pederson's counterpart, Cubs starting pitcher Steve Cowser, also faced only four batters in the bottom of the first.
The second inning was the roughest on Pederson. Well-placed hits allowed the Cubs to get on the scoreboard first. Control issues and shaky defense threatened to do more damage.
Cubs' center fielder Alex Laughlin got his team started with a one-out single and then stole second base. Aaron Gile came to the plate next and hit a bloop-single to right field. Laughlin came in to score, but Gile was thrown out trying to advance to second.
Pederson walked the next batter, Austin Clapp, who proceeded to steal second base. Then Corbin Francisco reached on a throwing error by the Sidewinders' third baseman and moved up to second. Clapp would have scored on the play, but he missed third base while rounding the bag and had to go back. Pederson then loaded the bases with another walk, but escaped the jam with his fourth strikeout.
Pederson's offense didn't provide any support in the second as Cowser sat the Sidewinders down in order.
Pederson faced the minimum in the third, but in interesting fashion. With two outs, Cubs right fielder Trent Robb on second and Cubs catcher Matt Cole in the batter's box, Pederson made a pick-off attempt to second. The ball squirted into centerfield, though, coaxing Robb to take off for third. Sidewinders centerfielder Christian Richardson fielded the ball and fired it to Rowan Cook at third in time to retire Robb for the third out.
Cowser continued to stifle Sidewinders batters in the third. He faced four batters in the inning and sat two of them down on strikes.
The Cubs continued to pester Pederson in the fourth with runners on second and third and no outs. Pederson fought back by retiring the next three batters, but not before a Gile groundout allowed Cole to score, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
The Sidewinders' offense showed signs of life in the fourth. Pederson helped his cause with a one-out double and then stole third base. A flare over third base by Cook two batters later brought Pederson in to score before Cowser could end the inning.
"I think at that point in time, that's when the tides started to turn," Anderson said.
Despite two errors from his defense, Pederson got out of the fifth with no harm done.
After keeping Sidewinders batters at bay for four innings, Cowser's night came to an end in the fifth. Austin Anderson led the inning off with a walk for the Sidewinders and eventually scored the tying run on a Sean Cesare double. Cowser was replaced by Laughlin after his second walk of the inning. Laughlin struck out the first batter he faced, but allowed back-to-back walks to load the bases and force Cesare home from third to score the deciding run. Drawing the walk to put the Sidewinders ahead 3-2 was, of course, Pederson.
The Sidewinders didn't score again, but they wouldn't need to. Pederson faced only eight batters in recording the final six outs of the game.
"In the seventh inning, it was going to be his game to win or lose and he did a good job," Anderson said.