Live From Kane County: Cougars Streak Ends

GENEVA, IL- The Kane County Cougars bats fell silent when they were needed the most as they struggled to drive in runs in a 9-2 loss to the Great Lakes Loons Friday night at Elfstrom Stadium.

The Cougars left 10 runners on base (seven in scoring position) and snapped their season-high three-game winning streak. While the Loons scored nine runs on 13 hits, the Cougars could only muster two runs off of 11 hits.

The Cougars' struggles with runners in scoring position has been a problem manager Aaron Nieckula has noticed all year.

"We have been getting runners on but for some reason we can't get them in like we would like," said Nieckula. "We are going to continue to struggle if we can't knock players in when we have opportunities."

The Loons drew first blood in the top of the first inning, as a leadoff walk to CF Bridger Hunt came back to hurt starter John Herrera. After issuing the walk, SS Francisco Lizarraga sacrificed himself to move Hunt into scoring position. DH Matt Berezay capitalized on his opportunity lining a single into centerfield scoring Hunt to give the Loons a 1-0 lead.

After another single put runners on first and second, Loons five hitter Eduardo Perez smacked a single to right field but was robbed of an RBI as Jermaine Mitchell threw out Berezay at home to minimize the damage. Herrera then got 3B Josh Bell to fly out to center field to end the inning.

For the third game in a row, the Cougars loaded the bases in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Mike Massaro lengthened his hitting streak to 12 games after beating Loons pitcher Cody White to first base on a deep ground ball to the first baseman.

Mitchell followed Massaro by laying down a perfect drag bunt between the pitcher's mound and first base to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

After 1B Greg Dowling went down swinging and DH Haas Pratt walked, the bases were loaded. However, White got 3B Alex Valdez to ground into a fielder's choice that resulted in Massaro being thrown out at home. With two outs, SS Michael Affronti grounded out to second to end the inning.

Scoring no runs, the Cougars blew a key chance to jump on the Loons.

"Anytime you can jump on a team and score runs and get them in the hole it's huge," said Nieckula. "Obviously the game isn't over in the first inning but it's a psychological advantage to draw first blood."

After a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the second, the Cougars scored their only two runs of the game in the bottom of the second. Two singles by LF Matt Sulentic and Massaro put runners on first and second with one out. Mitchell came up and stroked a single to left field that scored Sulentic. The throw from LF James Peterson hit Sulentic at home and ricocheted into the Cougars dugout allowing Massaro, who had advanced to third, a free trip home.

Those would be the only runs the team would get, as the Loons would outscore the Cougars 8-0 the rest of the way.

John Herrera shouldered the loss for the Cougars throwing 5.2 innings of seven-hit ball while walking five and giving up four runs.

"John (Herrera) didn't have his best stuff tonight and I think he knew it," Nieckula said. "He labored through 5.2 innings and got the ball up higher than he'd like."

Cody White earned the victory for the Loons pitching five innings surrendering eight hits and two runs while striking out four.

Lizarraga played well for the Loons and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle. In addition to Lizarraga, the Cougars didn't have an answer for Perez who went three-for-three, (including his fourth home run of the year) walked twice and scored three runs.

Peterson also had himself a day for the Loons going three-for-five with two singles and a home run. Many of the Loons hits came off counts with two strikes.

"It was a classic case of hitting good pitches," said Nieckula. "We allowed too many two strike hits and we are giving them too many good pitches to take advantage of."

C Jake Smith had two hits for the Cougars as well as Mitchell, Larry Cobb, Massaro and Sulentic.

The Cougars host the Loons today at 5 p.m. as the A's former number one draft pick in 2006, Trevor Cahill, takes the mound for his second appearance. He will face Clayton Kershaw who is expected to get the start for the Loons.

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