HYDE CREEK—The Port Hardy Cubs began Saturday’s baseball game short-handed.
They played much of the rest of it fumble-fingered.
The Hyde Creek Hillbillys took advantage of an uncharacteristic six Port Hardy errors and four innings of scoreless relief from Jason West to top the Cubs 8-4 in North Vancouver Island Baseball League play at the local ballfield.
Nick Russell doubled home a run and newcomer Chad Bell singled in another for the Hillbillys (6-2), who drew into a first-place tie with Port Hardy atop the league standings.
Two days earlier, the Cubs (6-2) parlayed a six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning into a 12-11 win over the Port McNeill Rangers.
In Saturday’s game, Cubs pitcher Rod Romas threw a complete-game four-hitter, but was tagged for six unearned runs as his club, normally known for solid defence, committed six errors.
“That very unusual for us,” Romas said. “I can’t remember the last time we had that many errors. Of course, I had three of them, so that wasn’t much help.”
Romas was particularly bedevilled by Hyde Creek’s Keith Balcke, who twice put down sacrifice bunt attempts that Romas fielded only to air-mail beyond first baseman Chris Heslop and down the right field line as Hillbillys scampered around the bases.
“That was pretty odd,” said Heslop. “Because in between all that, we had some nice defensive plays.”
The highlights included a double play by the Cubs to end the fifth inning, and a running catch in the gap by center fielder Dave Stewart to rob West of extra bases and end the sixth with a runner aboard.
Otherwise, though, the Hillbillys did a far better job of coming up with timely plays. The Cubs stranded 11 runners, including eight in the first four innings. Hillbilly starter Ryan Rushton got a strikeout to end the second inning with bases loaded and coaxed an infield grounder to end the third with Cubs on second and third.
And, after Port Hardy put runners on second and third with nobody out in the fourth inning, West sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a comebacker to the mound to get out of the inning unscathed.
Rushton picked up the win when the Hillbillys plated three unearned runs in the top of the fourth to snap a 4-4 tie. West earned the save while scattering four hits over the final four innings.
The teams will face tonight at 6:45 for the final time in the regular season, in a make up of a game suspended in late May.
Port McNeill will play Port Hardy Saturday at 6 p.m. and Hyde Creek faces Port McNeill Sunday at 4 p.m. on the final weekend of regular-season play. The league playoffs will be held at Hyde Creek Ballpark July 28-29.
Cubs 12, Rangers 11
Keith Heemels’ one-out single drove in Jason Hodson with the winning run Thursday to cap the Cubs’ six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh.
The Rangers (0-8) appeared on the verge of their first victory of the season after scoring three runs in the top of the seventh to extend a one-run lead to 11-6.
But Jordan Campbell, Curtis Martyn, Hodson and Heemels all had hits, and Port Hardy also benefitted from a walk and a Port McNeill error to clinch the win.
Martyn led off the fourth inning with a home run for the Cubs, who never led until their final rally.
Hillbillys 8, Cubs 4
Port Hardy 202 000 0—4 8 6
Hyde Creek 133 100 x—8 4 2
Romas and Lamothe; Rushton, West (4) and Hall. W—Rushton. L —Romas. Sv—West. LOB—Cubs 11, Hillbillys 6. DP—Cubs 1, Hillbillys 1. 2B—Cubs, Lamothe; Hillbillys, Russell. SB—Cubs, Romas, Lamothe. Hillbillys, Cessford 2, Galeazzi, Russell. Sac—Hillbillys, Balcke, Bell. Umpire—Glover. A—10.