Kane County Notebook: Final Series Review

The Kane County Cougars put together their best post-season run since 2006, but they fell short of their goal of a Midwest League championship, finishing one game short of a spot in the Midwest League finals. David Malamut reviews the Cougars' final series of the 2010 season.

The Kane County Cougars would take the Clinton Lumber Kings to the brink of making it to the championship round for the first time since 2006. In the end, the Cougars would go down in the third game of the series.

Looking back on the series, would it have played out differently if Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula had gone with Murphy Smith on short rest instead of trying to give him more rest? That move back-fired on the Cougars as Kenneth Smalley would get the loss in game two of the series. What would've happened if Smith didn't have to face the LumberKings ace Tom Wilhelmsen in the third game? Could the Cougars have advanced?

In game one, Dan Straily pitched a great game. He would go seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out 11 Kings. Josh Lansford then came in to close things out the final two innings, and give up two hits and a walk. He also would strike out five, three in the ninth inning alone.

The offense, well, it did what it would do a lot during the season, have one big inning and that would have to carry the team the whole way. This time it was the first inning in which the Cougars scored all four of their runs. Michael Choice, in his first Cougars' at-bat, hit a three-run opposite field homer. That was followed by a Rashun Dixon solo homer. After that the Cougars would strand four runners on-base the rest of the game.

The second game of the series the Cougars would get two runs on four hits. Choice hit a solo homer in the second inning and Dixon drove home Choice with a double in the sixth. Smalley started for the Cougars and lasted into the fourth inning. He would give up seven hits and three runs. Only one of those runs would be earned. In the game the Cougars would make three errors, as Leonardo Gil, Juan Nunez and Michael Choice all made errors.

Bo Schultz would come in after Smalley and give up three runs in an inning and two thirds. Because Smalley started, the Cougars had to go to a shaky bullpen early. Ryan Doolittle pitched two scoreless innings, but he would give up two hits and a walk. Aaron Larsen pitched a scoreless inning, but gave up a hit and a walk. If it was not for a great throw by Choice he would've given up some runs.

The final game of the series, the Cougars had a lot of chances but just couldn't convert them into runs, as Clinton made five errors. Veteran pitcher Tom Wilhemsen started and pitched seven innings, giving up six hits and no runs. The Cougars would finally score a run in the eighth. Jose Crisotomo reached on a one out error by the first baseman, as he wouldn't be able to hang onto a throw from third. A wild pitch moved him to second. One-out later, Dixon singled up the middle to score Crisotomo. Myrio Richard then walked and Dixon stole third, but Anthony Aliotti would be caught looking to end the inning.

In the ninth inning the Cougars had a chance to tie the game. Leonardo Gil led off with a single to left. Michael Gilmartin would pitch hit for Jason Christian and single to right. The rightfielder overran the ball, allowing Gil to get to third. However, Ryan Lipkin then would be caught looking and Conner Crumbliss followed with a strike-out. Crisotomo then grounded out to first to end the Cougars season.

The Cougars made it further this year than the two previous seasons. The last two years they were swept in the first round by Burlington. This year they played 144 games and won 74 of them.

About the Author
David Malamut has been covering the Cougars since 1998, with his own website, (http://malamut.net). He has also written a book about the Cougars, "Baseball In Kane County Cougars" (Arcadia/2005). For daily updates on the Cougars, go to his website (http://malamut.net) or follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/davidmalamut) for in game news and notes.

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