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Iowa Cubs win season opener 11-5 over Columbus Clippers

Iowa Cubs Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In their first game of the 2023 season, the Iowa Cubs opened their season with starting pitcher Adrian Sampson on the mound facing off against Columbus Clippers starter Konnor Pilkington on a brisk Friday night.

The game started off with a home run from catcher Bo Naylor in the first inning to put the Clippers on top 1-0. The Cubs responded immediately in the bottom of the first with a leadoff triple from Christopher Morel and an RBI double from Matt Mervis to tie the game at one.

In the second inning, the Cubs came up with two singles from Mike Tauchman and Sergio Alcantara, and both ended up scoring on a Morel RBI single to make the score 3-1. Later that inning, Morel went on to score on a wild pitch to make the score 4-1.

In the third inning, however, the Cubs ran into some trouble when Zack Collins and Chris Roller reached base via a single and a walk. After RBI singles from Tyler Freeman and Naylor, the Clipper cut the score to 4-3 with the potential to add more. They ended up tying the game on a fielder’s choice from Micah Pries, but after the top of the third, it was all Cubs.

After a hit by pitch to Mervis and a single from Nelson Velazquez, Jake Slaughter gave the Cubs a 6-4 lead on a two run double and the Cubs never looked back after it. After the Cubs starter pitched his way out of a bases loaded situation in the top of the fourth, the Cub’s offense came out swinging once again. 

Two batters after a single from catcher Dom Nunez, David Bote launched a two-run home run to left field to extend the Cub’s lead to 8-4. Two pitches later, Mervis hit a solo home run to right field to extend the Cub’s lead to 9-4. 

After giving up a double to Velazquez, the Clippers pulled their starting pitcher, Konnor Pilkington, and replaced him with reliever Luis Oviedo. Pilkington’s final stats on the night were 3.1 innings pitched, 11 hits allowed, 10 runs allowed, nine of them being earned, no walks, four strikeouts and two home runs allowed. 

The Cubs immediately resumed the scoring after the pitching change, with Slaughter providing another RBI double, extending the lead to 10-4. After a wild pitch and a walk to Brennen Davis, Mike Tauchman came through with an RBI single to extend the lead to 11-4 in the fourth inning.

After the Cubs’ parade of runs the first four innings, the pitching staff was able to hold it down the rest of the way. Adrian Sampson was able to turn in four plus innings of work, holding the Clippers to only four runs, three earned runs while striking out two batters. Cubs left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki received the win in Friday night’s match up, going 1.2 innings, only allowing one hit, one run, no earned runs and striking out two batters. After Borucki exited the game, relievers Anthony Kay, Vinny Nittoli and Rowan Wick were able to hold the Clippers to no additional runs the rest of the game.

Perhaps the most notable performance of the night came from the Iowa Cubs’ first baseman, Matt Mervis. Mervis reached base in all five plate appearances on Friday, turning in an RBI double in the first, a hit by pitch in the third, a solo home run in the fourth, a walk in the fifth and another walk in the seventh. Another significant stat was he reached first base his first four times against a left handed pitcher, showing that he can be effective as a left handed batter against a left handed pitcher on the mound. After Mervis’ breakout 2022 campaign, which included him hitting over .300 in the minor leagues last year with 36 home runs and his strong performance Friday night, he might not spend much time with the Iowa Cubs and could be called up to their affiliate, the Chicago Cubs, later in the season.

The Iowa Cubs look to improve on their strong start this past Friday with a deep roster of players and hope to make some noise in the International League this season after finishing 68-81 in 2022. With a number of experienced players and prominent prospects both on the team and working their way up through the Cubs minor league system, the Iowa Cubs hope to have a successful summer and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.


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