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Cubs squander another big lead in loss to Vikings

Escanaba Cubs pitcher Nick Chiu fires a pitch during a game against the Norway Vikings on June 19, 2024 at Al Ness Field in Escanaba. ("The Big Dog" Mitch Vosburg Daily Press)

ESCANABA — A 7-1 lead in the sixth inning vanished for the Escanaba Cubs on Wednesday night at Al Ness Field.

The Cubs fell to 0-2 after an 8-7 loss in eight innings to the Norway Vikings. The game served as a final tune-up before this weekend’ Gregg Johnson/Al Erickson Memorial Tournament.

“We ran into the same things we did (in a 9-8 loss to the Gladstone Indians) where we sat on a lead,” Cubs’ skipper Jon Bintner said. “We got a big lead and we sat on it instead of keeping the pedal to the metal. Keep scoring runs. Don’t just sit and think that’s going to be good enough.”

In what turned into a pitching by committee game for both squads, the combination of Eli Gardner, Ashtyn Rymkos, Cannon Arnt, Lucas Hall and Adrian Mercier combined to allow one unearned run off three hits through five innings. Nick Chiu assumed duties on the rubber for the sixth, and while the southpaw didn’t allow a hit, he allowed four walks which turned into a pair of Viking runs, but forced two base runners to be stranded in scoring position to keep the Cubs ahead.

Trent Turchin surrendered back-to-back singles to Gavin Trevillian and Owen Baij to start the seventh, but got Cole Baij to swing and miss at strike three and Bryce Adams to line out. Turchin needed one more out to give the Cubs their first win of the 2024 season.

Then three straight walks and a two-RBI single from Cameron Varda tied the game at 7-7 before Landon Admunson popped out to end the top half of the frame.

Chiu, Bryce Blixt and Garnder were retired in order, setting the stage for free baseball in Escanaba.

A one-out single from Owen Baij gave the Vikings life. Coile Baij grounded out for the second out of the frame while simultaneously moving Owen Baij to second. He stole third, and later scored on a Bryce Adams single to take an 8-7 lead.

“It’s always nice to get a base knock,” Adams said. “It felt good getting one right there.”

Mercier, Bon LaChance and Rymkos were retired in order to end the game.

“Pitcher by committee is always a struggle,” Bintner said. “We’re going to deal with it every week coming out for a tournament or getting ready for a tournament. These guys know and understand what their expectations are.”

Despite the second-straight loss with a lead of five or more runs in hand, the Cubs had positives to show on Wednesday.

LaChance blasted his first home run of the season for the game’s first run. Rymkos finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Chiu continued his scorching hot month of June with three hits and two RBIs.

As a team the Cubs mustered 13 hits, raiding their total to 24 base knocks in two games. But the struggle is having players from four different high schools and different college teams, whose respective seasons ended at different times, to get in sync while playing positions they’re not normally used to.

It’s an issue Bintner knows will be resolved when the season comes to its pivotal stretch of action.

“You’re dealing with getting them back, being together, hanging out and enjoying their company,” Bintner said. “We’re going to take our lumps, but I hope they have fun with it. We’ll get it rolling. We always do when it comes to crunch time. These guys know what they’re doing.”

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