The Kane County Cougars have really turned things around. They are finally above the break-even point on their record and, believe it or not, are in first place in their division.In the second half they are 15-8 and they are 47-45 overall.
Good pitching and some breakout hitting games have propelled the Cougars to the division lead. The Cougars would sweep the week with a 6-0 record. They outscored their opponents 39-18 during that span.
This second-half resurgence is led by their hitting, as they are batting .289 so far as a team. Myrio Richard is hitting .412, Michael Gilmartin .385, Anthony Aliotti .367, Conner Crumbliss .327 and Juan Nunez .294. One streak that did come to an end is Tyreace House's streak of reaching base safely in 43 straight games.
The week would start out with the Clinton Lumberkings in town for their final game of the series on Monday. The Cougars would win 7-5 with two three-run innings leading the way. Ian Krol started and had one inning in which he gave up three runs on a sacrifice fly and a two-run single.
Krol would go seven innings, giving up five hits and three runs. He walked two and struck out five. He would be able to get out of some trouble in the game. In the second inning he had to get a double-play to get out of a two runners on-base situation. In the fourth, another double play got him out of trouble. A.J. Huttenlocker would give up two runs in an inning and one third in relief, including a homer to Daniel Carroll.
The offense would get seven runs on nine hits. Anthony Aliotti and Leonardo Gil had run-scoring hits in the first. Crumbliss would hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Crumbliss, Richard and Aliotti all had two hits apiece.
South Bend came into town on Wednesday for a three-game series with the Cougars. Kane County would sweep them out of town. In the first game, it was close as the Cougars would win 8-7. Murphy Smith started and went into the sixth inning. He gave up six hits and four runs. Three of the four runs and two of the six hits came in the sixth inning. Besides that inning Smith pitched well, giving up four hits and one run in five. Bo Schultz would pitch an inning and one third and walk one but he gave up nothing.
The offense would come alive again, as they scored eight runs on 14 hits. Gilmartin had a two-run double in the first. Nunez, Crumbliss and Aliotti all drove in runs in the second and Max Stassi hit a solo homer in the fourth. Gilmartin, who would have three hits on the day, including two doubles, would double home a run in the fifth. Gil had two hits. He singled home a run in the seventh. Crumbliss also had three hits.
During the week, the Cougars' pitching staff would have a shutout streak of 26+ innings. In the second game of the South Bend series the Cougars would shut them out, 5-0. Justin Marks was great, as he went six innings, giving up two hits and walking two while striking out 10. He got his third win of the season. The first and the fifth innings would be when the Silver Hawks had their best chances against Marks. In the first, Marks would get Keon Broxton caught trying to steal third. Then with the bases loaded and two outs, he got Tyson Van Winkle to ground out to get out of the jam. In the fifth inning he loaded the bases with nobody out. A strike-out of David Nick, then a double play ball by Bobby Borchering would end the inning.
Connor Hoehn came in and pitched well also, as he went two innings, giving up two hits and getting one strikeout. Those two hits came in the seventh, and with two-outs he had runners on second and third. Hoehn then got Borchering to ground out to end the inning. Ryan Doolittle made his Cougars debut and pitched a shutout ninth, with two strikeouts.
Five runs on nine hits would be all the Cougars would need to win the game. Richard singled home House in the first. A wild pitch scored Chris Affinito in the second. Rashun Dixon hit a sacrifice fly to score Richard in the third. In the eighth, the Cougars would score their final two runs when Gilmartin singled home both Aliotti and Dixon. Aliotti had three hits, and House and Gilmartin both had two.
Continuing the shutout streak into the next game, the Cougars would win 8-0 against the Silver Hawks. Kenneth Smalley made hit 2010 Cougars debut and went into the fifth inning, giving up three hits while walking two and striking out four. He was helped by a nice throw on a play at the plate by Crumbliss in the first. Chris Mederos then made his first appearance since coming off of the disabled list. He went three and two-thirds innings, giving up only one hit while striking out four and picking up the win.
The offense helped, as they would get eight runs on 10 hits. In the second inning alone they scored four runs on five hits, with House, Richard, Dixon and Jason Christian all driving in runs. In the fourth inning, Crumbliss and Richard both drove home runs. Christian hit a two run homer in the fifth to cap off the Cougars scoring.
Daniel Straily had a great outing on Saturday in the first game against the West Michigan Whitecaps. He would go six innings, giving up five hits, while walking two and striking out seven. The White Caps had their leadoff man get on base in five of the six innings, but Straily still survived. Huttenlocker then came in for two innings, and he would give up the Cougars first run against in two days. It was a rocky ninth though as Max Peterson only got two outs and gave up two runs before Jose Guzman would come in and get the save.
Crumbliss led-off the scoring in the third with a run-scoring single to bring home Dixon. In the fourth inning the Cougars would score three times. Dixon brought home Aliotti with a bases loaded walk after a pitching change. Gil and Nunez also brought home runs that inning. Gil would then hit a solo homer in the sixth. In the eighth, Gil brought home Christian with a sacrifice fly and Dixon would score on a wild pitch. The Cougars would walk nine times, with none of those walks scoring.
Krol continued his dominance this season with five good innings on Sunday. He would give up two hits and one run. He could have given up more but got out of a man on third and nobody out situation in the second inning after an error. Bo Schultz would then give up a run in the sixth inning and Ryan Doolittle gave up a solo homer in the ninth.
Affinito continued to get big hits for the Cougars this season when he scored Gil with a double in the fifth. Also in the fifth Jose Crisotomo drove-in Affinito. In the seventh, Gil would hit a homer to left and in the ninth, Richard would score on a balk. Aliotti had three hits on the day.
The Cougars would finish the week in first place, 1.5 games up on Clinton. In the second half Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids don't count in the standings as they made the playoffs in the first half. The Cougars are three games up in the playoff hunt.
Coming Up Next
Next week, the Cougars continue their series against the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit) on Monday. After that they have Tuesday off before going on a long road trip out east. Wednesday they go to visit the Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto) for three games. After that they spend the weekend with the Great Lakes Loons (LA Dodgers). They don't come home again until July 31st against the Burlington Bees (Kansas City).
The Cougars did make some roster moves this week. Ryan Doolittle came to the team from Vancouver to fill up the roster at 25 on Monday. On Wednesday, Kenneth Smalley came from Stockton to get stretched out. Chris Mederos also came back from the disabled list. He hadn't pitched in a game for the Cougars since May 2nd. Jose Pina was promoted to Stockon and Robert Gilliam went on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain.
About the Author
David Malamut has been covering the Cougars since 1998, with his own website, (http://malamut.net). He has also written a book about the Cougars, "Baseball In Kane County Cougars" (Arcadia/2005). For daily updates on the Cougars, go to his website (http://malamut.net) or follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/davidmalamut) for in game news and notes.
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