Cubs 16U Navy use late rally to advance in Fall League playoffs

By DN WRITING STAFF | November 2, 2023

Will Ferguson scores go-ahead run for Cubs as Miners’ third baseman fields grounder. 

By Sean Reilly 

Tyler Snider of the Morris County Cubs 16U Navy had one thought in mind when he stepped into the box for a crucial at-bat on Wednesday night at Diamond Nation.

His 11th-seeded team, which had been mostly silent for five innings, had just rallied to tie the sixth-seeded Sussex Miners in a Diamond Nation Fall League first-round playoff game. There were two out, and the go-ahead run was on third base.

“I was just trying to make contact,” said Snider, a sophomore from Delbarton. “I didn’t want to strike out. A walk, swinging bunt, either one.”

Snider may not have hit a rocket, but he didn’t strike out, either. What he did produce was a slow grounder down the third-base line, resulting in a single that scored Will Ferguson with the go-ahead run in what became a 7-2 victory in Flemington. 

Ferguson had reached by hitting a two-run double with one out to draw the Cubs (3-5) even at 2-2.

It was all part of a dramatic turnaround in which the Cubs were held scoreless on two hits with 11 strikeouts through the first five innings, but struck for seven runs on four hits and six walks over the last two. 

“The whole mood in our dugout changed,” Snider said. “We found a little life.”

The Miners (4-4) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Matt Sabato led off with a single to center field, stole second and scored on Jack Veith’s double to center. Jesse Hawke then bunted Veith to third, and when the Cubs tried to also get Veith at third, the throw went past the base and allowed him to score.

The lead held until the Cubs sent up the top of the order to start the sixth. 

The first batter grounded out to third, but Henry Smith followed by drawing the second of his three walks. He also moved to second base following an error on a pickoff try.

Josh Hale (2-for-3, walk) followed with a single to left field that sent Smith to third. Ferguson (2-for-3, walk) followed with his double to left field which tied the score. Ryan Kuehne added a single to right field which moved Ferguson to third.

Jesse Hawke of the Miners drops down a sacrifice bunt that wound up scoring a run for a 2-0 lead. 

Kuehne stole second while the next batter struck out, setting the stage for the big at-bat from Snider. It didn’t go far, but was plenty effective.

“It had the perfect amount of rollover where it went halfway down the line,” he said.

With runners now on first and third, Kuehne scored on a double steal and the fifth run crossed on an error.

The Cubs added two more runs in the seventh, on a sacrifice fly from Zachary Broderson and bases-loaded walk to Troy Kuehne.

Troy Kuehne also gained the victory by pitching the final three innings in relief of solid starter Nathaniel Norin. Kuehne allowed no hits, with two strikeouts against four walks.

“I was trying to work my fastball in and out, and I was able to,” he said.

Jake Henningsen went 2-for-3 for the Miners.

The victory earned the Cubs a quarterfinal matchup against the third-seeded Allentown Legion later on Wednesday night, but that game resulted in a loss, eliminating the Cubs from the playoffs.

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