Oakland A's MLN: Cougars Fall Just Short

Coming into their final regular season game, the Kane County Cougars had a simple objective: win, and they were headed to the playoffs; lose, and they would need a Beloit Snappers' loss to get in. Unfortunately, the Cougars got neither and, after a valiant attempt, Kane County will be home for the post-season in 2005.

After a disappointing first half of the 2005 season, the Kane County Cougars rebounded to play above .500 baseball in the second half. In fact, they played so well that they were near the top of their division for much of the second half. Consequently, the Cougars had a legitimate shot to make the playoffs despite finishing seven games under .500 during the first half of the season.

Kane County sent starter Trent Peterson to the mound in the pivotal contest against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Peterson began the year with the Stockton Ports and was 4-6 in 15 starts for Stockon before he was sent down to Kane County. Upon arriving at Kane County, Peterson immediately began pitching better. Before Monday's game, Peterson was 3-2 with a 3.30 in 15 appearances (seven starts) for the Cougars. He had struck out 48 and walked only 11 in 57.1 innings.

Peterson pitched well again on Monday, but ran into some tough luck. He tossed four scoreless innings before running into a rough spot in the fifth. He allowed a solo homerun to Jordan Renz and another unearned run later in the frame. He would pitch a scoreless sixth and would leave with a solid line of six innings pitched with two runs allowed (one earned). He struck out six and walked none.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, Peterson's tough performance wasn't enough as the Cougar offense went silent. Kane County managed only five hits and two walks in the game and they couldn't push a run across. The Cougars' season would end with a 5-0 loss and Beloit's 8-1 win. This is only the second time since 1999 that the Cougars have missed the playoffs.

Despite the disappointing ending, the Cougars had some memorable individual performances this season. 2005 draftees Cliff Pennington and Travis Buck were both impressive additions to the squad. Pennington finished his first professional campaign with a .276 average and 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts. Buck joined the Cougars late in the season, but quickly developed into one of the Cougars' best offensive players. The outfielder finished the year with a .341 batting average and 22 runs batted in over 32 games played. He showed good plate discipline, as well, walking 19 times and striking out 19 times.

Outfielder Javier Herrera was the Cougars' only post-season All-Star. He mashed 13 homers in 361 at-bats and drove in 62 runs. He also stole 26 bases and was caught only five times. Myron Leslie was the team-leader in homeruns with 15. First basemen Tom Everidge and Eddie Kim both battled injuries during the season, but each went over double-digits in homeruns. Speedster Nick Blasi stole 18 bases in 19 chances.

On the pitching-side, Ryan Ford led the team in wins with 14. He also had the lowest starter ERA of any Cougar starter with more than 20 starts with a 4.26. 2004 high draft choice Michael Rogers led the team in strike outs with 111 in 137.2 innings. Rob Semerano was effective as the Cougars' closer, saving ten games. He struck out 48 batters in 46.2 innings. Late-comer Dan Fyvie was impressive in 13 appearances, posting a 2-0 record with 22 strike outs in 22.1 innings in relief.

Other Notes:

-- The Midland Rockhounds are set to match-up with the San Antonio Missions in the first round of the Texas League playoffs. Midland will be without star outfielder Andre Ethier, who was promoted to AAA-Sacramento earlier this week. The Rockhounds have a 16-12 record against San Antonio this season. Starter Steve Bondurant has shined against the Seattle affiliate, going 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 6 starts against the Missions this season. He will likely go in the third game of the series. Shane Komine is penciled in for game one and Mike Nannini is slotted for game two. There has been talk that Stockton's Danny Putnam may be promoted to Midland before the playoffs, but as of Monday, he was still on the Ports' roster. Putnam leads the A's organization in runs batted in this season with 99. Stockton will also be in the playoffs, as they clinched the second half division title with a win over San Jose on Saturday.

-- Vancouver's Brad Davis continued his amazing season in the Canadians' 3-2 loss to Salem-Keizer on Monday. The 14th round draft pick out of Lewis & Clark State has been light's out this season. Davis worked two more scoreless innings in relief on Monday, lowering his ERA to a microscopic 0.52. He allowed one hit and has given up only 26 hits in 34.1 innings this season. The lefty has struck out 44 and has walked only eight. Davis could be a real late-round find for the A's, who have a good history with Lewis & Clark State relievers like Keith Foulke.

-- Another late-round gem started the game for Vancouver. Ohio State's Mike Madsen had one of his worst outings of the season, which says something since he allowed only two runs in five innings of work. The righty gave up two first innings runs (one earned) and six hits. He struck out six and walked two. His ERA actually went up after the outing from 1.68 to 1.69. The righty has 68 K's against only 14 walks in 80 innings of work. Madsen has allowed only two homeruns and 56 hits over that span.

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