Kane County Notes: Memorial Day Action

GENEVA, IL - The Kane County Cougars took one of three games against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. We have all of the details of the holiday weekend action inside...

Sunday Doubleheader Results In Split

After a rainout spoiled Saturday's scheduled game, the Kane County Cougars came back on Sunday and split a doubleheader against the Cedar Rapids Kernels losing game one, 3-1, and winning game two, 2-0.

Cougars starting pitcher Andrew Bailey threw well, striking out 10 Kernels in game one while walking no one. However, Bailey also gave up three runs in 5.1 innings and shouldered the loss for the team.

Bailey, who has one of the lowest ERA's on the team, is still looking for his first win of the year. The Cougars couldn't muster much offense on the day as Kernels pitcher David Herndon only allowed one run.

The run came in the third inning as a single from RF Jermaine Mitchell plated CF Mike Massaro who had singled earlier in the inning.

In game two, a pitching duel ensued between Cougars starter James Heuser and Kernels pitcher Doug Brandt. Both pitchers allowed zero runs through five innings in dominating performances.

Heuser earned the victory in the game after the Cougars plated a run off of Brandt in the sixth inning.

Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula later spoke about the performance.

"It was a good performance of six strong innings," said Nieckula. "Heuser made some quality pitches in key moments, had great mound presence and gave us an opportunity to win."

The Kernels best scoring chance came in the second inning after 2B Ryan Mount singled with one out. After stealing second base, Heuser used an inside move to pick off Mount and neutralize the threat.

"Nuke [Aaron Nieckula] called the pick-off which was clutch," said Heuser. "I just tried to focus and stay composed out there because I know I have a great defense behind me."

With two outs in the inning, Heuser walked RF Tyler Johnson and an error by Cougars 3B Christian Vitters put runners on first and second. After a wild pitch advanced runners to second and third, Heuser struck out Marco Albano to end the inning. The Kernels wouldn't get a hit or move a runner to third base for the remainder of the game. Heuser attributed his off-speed pitches as a catalyst to his success.

"Early on I was utilizing my fastball and change up, said Heuser. "But the last two or three innings, my slider finally started working for me and I was able to get a lot of batters out."

The Cougars scored their only two runs of the game in the sixth inning that was started by a leadoff single from Mitchell. After DH Greg Dowling flew out to left field, 1B Haas Pratt walked to put runners on first and second. Vitters came to the plate and laced a double down the left field line to hit what turned out to be the game winning RBI for the Cougars.

"I'm happy for Chris because he had been struggling for the past few days," said Nieckula. "He waited for his pitch and took it down the left field line for a huge hit for us."

After the double made the score 1-0 in favor of the cougars, 2B Larry Cobb hit a sacrifice fly scoring Pratt who had advanced to third on the double.

"Cobb came in, got a nice fly ball to left field and took care of his job," said Nieckula.

Scott Moore came in for the Cougars and retired the first three batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh to earn his fifth save of the season.

The Cougars pitching staff combined to strike out 22 batters on the day. Mitchell had three hits in the two games for the Cougars. Vitters wound up two-for-three on the day.

Cougars Drop Memorial Day Series Finale

The Kane Country Cougars gave up the lead early and couldn't come back falling to the Cedar Rapids Kernels 10-6 in the series finale Monday night at Elfstrom Stadium.

The loss moves the Cougars record to 13-36 on the season while improving the Kernels to 25-21. Cougars starting pitcher John Herrera had a tough outing, surrendering six runs on five hits in only three innings of work. Herrera threw five wild pitches on the day as C Haas Pratt got his first start behind the plate as a pro and had a tough time stopping pitches in the dirt. Herrera also walked three on the day and had one hit batsman.

Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula spoke later about Herrera's struggles.

"He battled out there today and had a tough time with his fastball control," said Nieckula. "You're not always going to have your best stuff but it's what you do in between outings that makes you a man."

Kernels pitcher Tim Schoeninger improved his record to 7-2 on the year hurling five innings of four-run ball while giving up eight hits and striking out five.

The Kernels struck first in the top of the first inning as DH Abel Nieves hit a one-out double to the right-center gap. After LF Chris Pettit was hit by a pitch and 1B Mark Trumbo flew out to right field, a wild pitch advanced both runners into scoring position. Following the wild pitch, C Hank Conger hit a two-out single to score Nieves and Pettit and give the Kernels a quick 2-0 lead.

The Cougars responded in the bottom of the first as CF Mike Massaro hit a triple to deep center field to start off the inning. RF Jermaine Mitchell was able to hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field as Massaro tagged up to score making the score 2-1.

However, the Kernels would score five runs in the next three innings to open up a 7-1 lead and the Cougars never caught up.

"When you give up double digits it's tough to come back and win," said Nieckula.

Despite the pitching staff's struggles, the Cougars bats began coming to life unlike most of the year. The Cougars first four hitters combined for eight of the team's 12 hits and accounted for all six runs.

"I was very pleased with the way the top of the order played today and is starting to shape out," added Nieckula. "All we look for is quality at bats and today we seemed to had some timely hits that we haven't necessarily had all year."

Relief pitcher Inoel Deaza spelled Herrera and pitched the last six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits. Deaza, who nearly qualified for a quality outing, (6+ innings allowing three or less runs) was visibly upset after giving up two runs in the seventh. Nieckula, who welcomes emotion with open arms, spoke after the game about body language.

"I thought he (Deaza) threw the ball fairly well," said Nieckula. "But his body language at times was poor. It upsets me when players' body language is poor. Showing emotions is perfectly fine, but you never want to show the other team they are getting to you. You have to suck it up and take it like a man."

SS Michael Affronti led the way for the Cougars with three singles on the day. Affronti, who recently has moved up to the number two spot, has steadily improved his average over the past few games.

"I'm very pleased with Affronti's bats as of late," said Nieckula. "That's why he's getting put up higher in the line up."

In addition to Affronti, Massaro and 1B Greg Dowling both had two hits on the day.

Blake Holler and Aaron Cook pitched the last four innings for the Kernels and held the Cougars to only two runs, both given up by Holler. Nieves, Mark Trumbo and Tyler Johnson all hit home runs for the Kernels, their first, fourth and fourth home runs on the year respectively. 3B Matt Sweeney also had two hits on the day for the Kernels.

The Cougars begin a five-game four-day series against Beloit Tuesday with a double header. Trevor Cahill and Jason Fernandez are expected to get the starts for Kane County.

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