Cubs start slow, fall 5-1 to Chief Pontiac

ESCANABA – The Escanaba Cubs got off to a slow start Friday at the Gregg Johnson Memorial Tournament, falling to Chief Pontiac 5-1.

The Cubs trailed 2-0 for the majority of the contest until Chief Pontiac put up three runs in the top of the seventh to pad their lead and seal the victory.

Derek Darling earned a walk to start it off, then Ben Kleiman tried to check the runner at first but overthrew and Darling advanced to second. Ben Crawford followed with a single, and both runners advanced when Darling looked pickled between second and third, but managed to get to third safely.

Maverick Prine belted a two-RBI double to send both runners home, boosting the Chief Pontiac lead to 4-0. Prine advanced to third on a passed ball, and Dylan Peck sent Prine home with an RBI single.

Chief Pontiac (5-1) was able to bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season earlier in the day, bowing to Midland 5-2.

“I thought we played better in the first game than we did in the second game,” said Chief Pontiac coach Doug Brady. “But overall, defensively we put together a very good game against Escanaba.”

David McNeely accounted for the second run of the game after belting a lead-off home run to left center. It was his first homer of the season.

“It felt good,” McNeely said. “At first, I thought it was just going to be a double, but I got all of it and it just went out.”

His coach said that he has some pop in his bat, and he’s known to go yard a handful of times over the course of a summer.

“He’s got some power, and he drives a lot of balls to the power alleys,” Brady added. “We drove the ball well, and I’m happy with the hitting today.”

Chief Pontiac is set to play the Black Socks of Sault Ste. Marie, Canada today at 10 a.m. in Gladstone, and then they take on Marquette immediately after.

“We need to win those two games to get to Sunday,” Brady said.

Despite a solid outing by Kleiman, he came away with the loss.

“Ben’s a top quality pitcher,” said Cubs coach Tom Ohman. “We just couldn’t score. But we played better, that’s the biggest thing I’m positive about. We’ve been lacking a little bit lately, but tonight was a positive sign. Chief Pontiac is a very good team.”

Ohman added that part of the problem with scoring comes from leaving runners stranded on a consistent basis.

“We’re leaving runners in scoring position and not getting them across,” he said. “It was the same thing down in Green Bay. We had 12 or 13 runners stranded every game.”

Escanaba scored their only run in the seventh when Tim Lueneburg hit a deep sacrifice fly to knock in the designated runner, Andrew Miller.

Chief Pontiac had seven hits and zero errors, and Escanaba came away with six hits and one error.

The Cubs faced a quick turnaround, having to pick up and face the Black Socks after their game with Chief Pontiac. However, they rebounded quite well, dropping the Socks 10-2 in six innings.

Escanaba (2-4) is scheduled to resume tournament play today at 4:45 p.m. against Marquette. That contest will be followed by their matchup against Midland, which has a 7 p.m. start time.