WORTHINGTON -- What started out as a pitcher’s duel ended in a 12-9 loss for the Worthington Cubs amateur baseball team Wednesday night.
The Cubs and the Ruthton Royals were knotted 2-2 after five innings. But in the end, after a total of 30 hits and 11 errors were collected between the two clubs, Ruthton walked off the local junior high field in victory -- dropping the Cubs’ record to 0-9.
It’s still early. Worthington has had opportunities to win a few games this year. Call it what you will -- tough luck, lack of pitching depth, or an inability to make clutch plays at crucial times -- it hasn’t happened yet.
On Wednesday, both teams appeared to be hampered in the field by an inability to pick up the ball. At first guess, the culprit seemed to be a light fixture behind third base that didn’t work. Cubs player-coach Shawn Hurley, however, said the sunset was the chief cause.
“There was an inning where it was just hard to track the ball coming off the skyline,” he said. “The sunset was just the right shade of orange. You could see (the ball) unless it was coming right at you.”
Altogether, Worthington had 17 hits in the game off Ruthton pitchers Brandon Verly (who threw six innings) and Christopher Dougherty, who threw the rest. But Worthington pitchers Eric Heidebrink (5.1 innings), Ryan Swanson (2.2 innings) and Brayden Donkersloot (one inning) couldn’t keep the Ruthton offense at bay.
They couldn’t be entirely blamed, however. Worthington committed three of its four errors in the sixth inning when Ruthton scored three times to break open the 2-2 tie. More inconsistent defense occurred the rest of the way for both teams.
Ruthton had seven errors in the game.
Worthington’s first hitter of the game, Hurley, tripled in the bottom of the first inning but was thrown out at home when a throw skidded past third base. Designated hitter Easton Sauerbrei hit a two-out solo home run a couple of batters later -- which would have been a two-run shot had Hurley stayed at third.
Sauerbrei delivered an RBI single in the third, giving Worthington a 2-1 advantage.
After both teams scored three times in the sixth (the Cubs had RBI singles by Heidebrink and Eli Gaul and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Josh Wasmund), the score was 5-5. But Ruthton scored seven times in the last three innings and Worthington scored three times.
Even so, the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh for the always-dangerous Sauerbrei, who flew out to center field to end the game.
“A play here or there,” said Hurley. “But we’ve been in these last couple of games. I’d rather us be playing well late in the season, but it would be nice to win a game. But we came up big at the plate when we needed to.”
The Cubs’ lively bats are one reason for optimism. The pitching depth is a little weak at this point, but when the weather warms up, the arms may warm up, too.
Worthington travels Sunday to Windom for a 2 p.m. game.
Hurley hopes the team can put more pressure on opponents early.
“We need to jump out to an early lead. I think we’ve gotta get to a lead early and have them make a switch when they don’t want to,” he said.
Ruthton 001 013 502 -- 12 13 7
Worthington 101 003 310 -- 9 17 4