Despite losing twice to the Astros during the regular season, the Cubs were confident going into Sunday’s Eastern Baltimore County Over-40 Baseball league championship game.
“This is the first time we’ve had our full team when playing them,” Cubs infielder Chris Mirabile said during the Cubs’ 9-2 win over the Astros at the American Legion Post 38 field.
The Cubs also played good defense, while Astros errors contributed to seven of the Cubs’ runs.
“We had a bad day in the field” said Astros manager Jim Cundiff. “The ball didn’t bounce our way today. But the Cubs put the ball in play. My hat’s off to them.”
Cubs pitchers shut down a formidable Astros lineup that had been bludgeoning teams in the postseason.
Dale Hunter pitched the first four innings and left with a 6-2 lead. Scott Rudolph followed with four shutout innings and Dave Cundiff pitched the ninth.
“Our pitching has dominated all year,” said Dave Cundiff, Cubs manager and Dave’s brother. “If our defense stays where it needs to be, we’re a tough team to beat.”
The Cubs allowed 72 runs during the regular season, behind only the Dodgers (51), and only gave up four runs in three postseason games.
“They kept us in check all game, said Dave Cundiff, whose team scored 25 runs in its two previous playoff games. “We got a sporadic hit here and there, but couldn’t get anything going.
“They played good defense and protected the ball well.”
The Astros got two hits off of Rudolph in the fifth, but he retired nine of 10 batters in the sixth-through-eighth innings.
“I threw a lot of curveballs followed by fastballs when I was ahead in the count,” Rudolph said. “There were some really good lays in the field that helped me get out of two innings.
“We came in with a lot of confidence. The two times we played them earlier, we felt we could have won both games.”
A reversed call at second base helped Rudolph and the Cubs out of a potential jam in the fifth inning.
With one out and Herb Randolph on first, Mike Aubele hit a ground ball back to Rudolph, who threw to second.
But the throw was a little off-target, pulling second baseman Kevin Bradshaw off the bag. He tried to tag Randolph as the Astros baserunner slid past, but Randolph was originally ruled safe.
The Cubs appealed, and the first base umpire overturned the call and ruled Bradshaw had tagged Randolph.
Joe Lobianco followed with a single to center, meaning the Astros potentially could have had bases loaded with one out and trailed 7-2.
The Cubs took a 3-0 lead in the first inning when, with the bases loaded, the Astros rightfielder fell down tracking a fly ball. Three runs scored.
With the Cubs leading 3-2 in the top of the fourth, two outs and a runner on first, an infield error put runners on second and third, and then another infield error allowed both runners ro score.
A third run scored on Rudolph’s bloop single to shallow left, giving the Cubs a 6-2 lead.
The Cubs added another run in the fifth on an Astros error with two outs, then extended their lead to 9-2 in the top of the eighth on RBI singles by Bill Kelly and Hunter.
“Every inning, we knew if we put one more run on the board, it would be tougher to catch us, with our pitching,” Jim Cundiff said.
The Astros only had four hits over the last seven innings and only had more than one runner on base in the fifth inning. No Astros baserunner reached third base over the last seven innings.
Winning ten games in a row, we knew we were going to lose eventually,” Dave Cundiff said. “We were hoping our next loss would be in the opening game of next season.”
The Cubs relieved themselves of two burdens: losing to the Astros and losing in the championship game (they had lost in their two previous appearances).
“It’s a good feeling, knowing you play for a reason,” Jim Cundiff said. “Hopefully, we don’t look back.”