Kane County Notes: Controversies & All Stars

GENEVA, IL - Kane County manager Aaron Nieckula took issue with the umpiring during the Cougars' game versus Clinton on Monday, as Kane County dropped another close game. The news isn't all bad for the Cougars, however, as the team learned on Tuesday that four of their players are headed to the All-Star Game, to be played at Elfstrom Stadium on June 19.

Amidst a controversial call that may have swayed the game considerably, the Clinton LumberKings defeated the Kane Country Cougars 4-2 Monday night at Elfstrom Stadium.

With the Cougars trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, RF Jermaine Mitchell led off the inning with a double. DH Haas Pratt came to the plate and hit a weak fly ball that caused LumberKings RF K.C. Herren to make a diving catch. Mitchell, who tagged up on the play, made it to third base, or so he thought. The LumberKings threw the ball to second base in an appeal and Mitchell was called out by base umpire Dan Oliver for leaving early.

Immediately, Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula ran out to argue the appeal. However, his pleas were not heard and a tremendous scoring opportunity was squandered.

After the game, Nieckula voiced his extreme frustration over the call and the umpire staff as a whole on the season.

"I understand umpires are human beings and make mistakes, but when you're consistently getting it wrong more than you get it right, there are issues," said Nieckula.

"When you have a player from the other team come up to you and say the umpire got it wrong, that's pretty pathetic. We have the fastest guy in the league (Mitchell) at second base, their guy dives for the ball, why would he have to leave early?"

The Cougars never fully recovered from what appeared to most to be a blown call as they could only put a runner on second base once more during the entire game.

The LumberKings added one more insurance run in the ninth inning after a double from LF Chad Tracy plated 2B Jose Vallejo who had singled earlier in the inning to make the score 4-2.

Trevor Cahill made his fourth start in a Cougars uniform and looked impressive throughout. After issuing three consecutive walks in the first inning, Cahill threw what appeared to be an inning-ending ground ball. Instead, what would have been the third out turned into an error on Cougars' SS Alex Valdez as 3B Johnny Whittleman scored on the play.

Cahill remained impressive throughout the remainder of the game hurling 4.1 innings of six-hit ball while striking out seven batters and yielding two runs (only one was earned).

"Cahill threw the ball well," said Nieckula. "He came out and had his slider working and exposed their hitters weakness which is what you have to do."

The Cougars only two runs came in the fifth innings as an error by Vallejo helped load the bases for 3B Sammy Hernandez. Hernandez grounded into a fielder's choice that plated C David Castillo who was on third base at the time. CF Mike Massaro came up next and executed a perfect two-out bunt to plate Valdez. The bunt was not a called play. Rather, it was an instinct from Massaro.

"We've talked about it before, lefty on lefty and the third baseman back, give it a shot," Nieckula said about Massaro's decision to bunt. "Mike did a great job getting the base hit and tying the game for us."

Mike Ballard hurled seven innings of four-hit ball for the LumberKings while giving up two runs (neither of them were earned) and earning the victory.

Derrick Gordon shouldered the loss for the Cougars after giving up a run in the sixth inning on three walks and a sacrifice.

The loss is the Cougars fourth consecutive and moves their record to 15-42 on the season. With the victory, the LumberKings remained in the race to win the division as their record improved to 34-21.

Massaro had two hits on the day for the Cougars including the game-tying RBI bunt.

SS Marcus Lemon and Tracy both had two hits on the day for the LumberKings while Vallejo finished the day with three.

Tim Gudex came on for the final four outs for the LumberKings and earned his fourth save of the year.

Before leaving the press conference, Nieckula made one final statement about the umpire crew.

"I've got issues with this crew," added Nieckula.

"I think they've had it out for us the entire year. Over turned calls, missed calls. I'm not trying to pin the blame on the umpires for losing the game, but when it's all said and done, for some reason the umpires want to get noticed. As a manager, I have to go out and defend my players. I show more respect by not ranting and raving or picking up the bases and throwing them like some of the other managers do. Maybe I'll do that next time."

The Cougars' finish their four-game home stand today against the LumberKings. Scott Deal is expected to pitch for the Cougars' while Kasey Kiker will take the mound for the LumberKings.

Four Cougars Named To Midwest All-Star Game

The Midwest League All-Star game will be held at the Cougars' home, Elfstrom Stadium, on June 19 and four Kane County players will be on hand.

The Cougars will send outfielders Mike Massaro and Jermaine Mitchell, infielder Mike Affronti and reliever Scott Moore to the mid-season classic. Massaro was named as a starter in the outfield.

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