Kane County Notebook: Cougars Struggling

The Kane County Cougars have not played very well lately. Through Sunday, the Cougars had lost nine out of their last 13 games and they have lost their last four series in a row. During these struggles, the Kane County offense hasn't been there, while the pitching has been there some times and not others.

Week In Review (4/28 – 5/4)

This week, the Kane County Cougars saw the Fort Wayne Wizards (San Diego) and Clinton Lumberkings (Texas).

On Monday, the Cougars would be rained out, so it would be a noon double-header on Tuesday against Fort Wayne. In game one of the double-header, Travis Banwart would pitch well in his six innings, giving up four hits and two runs, with seven strikeouts. The Cougars weren't able to get anything going offensively with five hits in the 2-0 loss.

In game two of the double-header, the Cougars would win a 1-0 game. Jamie Richmond lasted into the seventh inning, giving up four hits and striking out seven. Branden Dewing would pitch the final two outs to get the save.

On Wednesday, Scott Hodsdon would get beat up again, this time by the Wizards in another noon game. Hodsdon went into the fourth inning, giving up five hits and seven runs. One of those runs would be earned. Leonardo Espinal gave up three runs in two thirds of an inning. The Cougars would lose the game by a score of 11-5.

After a Thursday off-day, the Cougars welcomed first-place Clinton to town on Friday. Scott Mitchinson pitched very well, but he was stuck with a no-decision. The right-hander got into the eighth inning, giving up two runs and five hits. Unfortunately, the Cougars managed only two runs on 10 hits. The game would go into the 10th inning and Justin Friend would give up four runs in the inning for the 6-2 loss.

Saturday saw the Cougars win their only game against Clinton in the series, 6-4. In the third inning, Craig Italiano walked two runs in, but he pitched a strong game overall. Both runs were unearned and Italiano allowed only three hits in five innings. The bullpen held the lead, and the Cougars had just enough hitting to win.

Jamie Richmond got nailed on Sunday with six runs on eight hits in six innings and the Cougars would lose, 11-4. Reliever Chad Kerfoot and manager Aaron Nieckula would get tossed in the ninth, after Kerfoot gave up a homer and hit the next guy. Leonardo Espinal then gave up a homer, but would get the final out. The Cougars gave up four homers in the game.

Roster Updates

Kane County made some roster moves this week. Leaving the Cougars were Earl Oakes and Branden Dewing. Oakes was released after two poor outings, while Dewing finally got promoted to Stockton after pitching well for the Cougars. In their place, left-hander Lance Sewell and right-hander Chad Kerfoot joined Kane County from extended spring training.

A couple of injuries also altered the roster. Infielders Matt Ray and Michael Richard were placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and bone spurs in the right thumb, respectively. Larry Cobb was sent back to the Cougars from High-A Stockton, while Adam Klein joined the Cougars from extended spring training.

Player Highlights

Centerfielder Corey Brown came back after shoulder problems, then hit a ball off his knee and was out a day. The injuries didn't slow down his bat against Fort Wayne. In the series, he went 5 for 7 with three doubles, two runs, one walk and one stolen base. He struck-out six times in five games, but his average is still well above .300. After two more hits on Monday, Brown is batting .324 with five homers and a 977 OPS in 27 games.

First baseman Greg Dowling had hits in all but one game this week. He went seven for 27, but he would have six doubles and three runs batted in this week. He struck-out four times and hit into two double plays.

Reliever Leonardo Espinal is really struggling right now. This week, he made two appearances, going a combined one inning and giving up four hits and five runs. He walked three and struck out one, and he also gave up a homer.

Outfielder Toddric Johnson has had five hits in 13 at bats in his last three games with a double, a run and a run batted in.

Shane Keough has surprised after a really slow start. The outfielder has been playing everyday and has been red-hot. This week, he had hits in all but one game, going nine for 23. On the April 30th, he had three runs batted in. On the flipside, his defense was inconsistent, as he misjudged two balls in center to help in a loss in the week.

Catcher Gustavo Rosendo played in five games and had four hits. He scored three runs. Fellow catcher Matt Smith is really struggling at the plate. In five games, he had only two hits in 18 at-bats with a double and six strike-outs.

Third baseman Christian Vitters is struggling on offense and defense. He made two errors on Sunday and he is one for his last 17. On the plus-side, his situational hitting was good and he had a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt this week.

Manager Aaron Nieckula was ejected on Sunday, and he is one ejection shy of tying the team record for most ejections in a career, by Dave Joppie at eight.

Coming Up Next

This upcoming week, the Cougars will be on the road playing West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit) and Quad City River Bandits (St. Louis).

About the writer

David Malamut has been a season ticket holder of the Cougars for the past 11 years. He has also been writing a daily website about the team for that long at http://malamut.net. David wrote a book about the history of the Cougars in 2005. Baseball In Kane County, Arcadia Publishing.

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