Kane County is playoff bound. They would win five out of their last six games en route to the playoffs. They would end up being second half Western Division champions. That means that they get to play the first half wild card, the Quad Cities River Bandits, in the first round.
Behind good pitching, excellent bullpen work and timely hitting, the Cougars would get on a nice five-game winning streak towards the end of the season to clinch the playoff berth. This was helpful because going into the week the Cougars were not playoff bound just yet. They needed to win and needed some help.
Kane County would sweep the Peoria Chiefs to knock them out of the playoffs in the first series of the week at home. The Cougars would outscore the Chiefs 16-5 in the series. In the first game the Cougars would come out and get the shutout, 7-0.
Murphy Smith would pitch seven great innings, giving up five hits, while walking one and striking out six. He was really only in trouble twice in the game, as he had some runners on in his later innings and would strand them with strikeouts. Josh Lansford then came in and gave the Cougars two innings of solid relief.
Just like a lot of the time this year, the Cougars got their runs in bunches. In this game they scored three runs in the fourth, followed by four in the fifth. The good part is five of those runs were off major league pitcher Carlos Silva, who was on a rehab assignment. In Silva's first few innings he was great, but then in the fourth he started to leave the ball up and it got hammered. Jason Christian would hit a three-run homer in the fourth. Anthony Aliotti, Mitch LeVier and Rashun Dixon all had run-scoring singles in the fifth. In the seventh, Jose Crisotomo singled home Dixon to end the scoring.
The second game of the series was a strange game. The Cougars would end up winning 5-3. Jonathan Joseph gave up three runs on four hits in five innings. The one mistake he made was a solo homer in the first. Besides that, a walk, a balk and a single in the second bit him. Bo Schultz came in and got the win after two solid innings.
The offense had plenty of chances, as they stranded 10 runners. Runs scoring off of a wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk in the third would be the only two runs until the end of the game for the Cougars. In that inning they would leave the bases loaded with walks. With one out and the bases loaded, Dixon and Christian struck out.
The magic happened in the seventh inning as rain was imminent. With one-out, Leonardo Gil hit a solo homer to center off the batters eye to tie the game. One out later, Dixon singled and Christian was intentionally walked. Max Stassi then fouled off a bunch of pitches, finally getting one to his liking. He singled to center to score Dixon, and Christian would score on an error by the centerfielder. After that the downpour started and the Cougars won and the Chiefs were eliminated from the playoffs.
The final game of the series with the Chiefs, the Cougars would win, 4-2. Chris Mederos started and pitched well. He went seven innings, giving up five hits and two unearned runs. The two runs came in the fourth inning, one on an error and the other on a sacrifice fly. The Cougars would score three of their four runs in the fourth inning. With one out, Aliotti walked. Mitchell LeVier then doubled to left to score Aliotti. Dixon then hit a opposite field two-run homer. The final run of the game came in the seventh for the Cougars as Aliotti singled home Crisotomo.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers then came to town for the final three games of the regular season. Dan Straily pitched the first game of the series and got his 10th win of the year in the Cougars' 6-2 win. Straily would go six innings, giving up four hits and one run. Ryan Doolittle pitched two scoreless innings. The offense got six runs on 10 hits. Four runs came in the third with three of them scoring on a bases-clearing triple by Tyreace House, who would then come in to score on a wild pitch. In the fourth inning, the Cougars got two more runs. Crisotomo would drive in Christian and House would drive in Stassi. With the win and a Beloit loss, the Cougars had clinched a playoff spot.
Aaron Larsen pitched the second game of the series, but even before the game started the Cougars would get great news. Clinton had lost which meant that the Cougars had just won the division. Larsen had a better outing then last time, but still gave up five hits and four runs in four innings. He really made only three mistakes, though, a single in the first, a homer in the third along and a single later in the inning. The bullpen was great as Connor Hoehn, Robert Gilliam, Lansford and Jose Guzman combined to go five innings, giving up five hits and no runs.
Offensively, the Cougars would score two runs in the second that really helped. Juan Nunez doubled to score both runs. In the fourth inning, LeVier hit a leadoff homer. Conner Crumbliss then singled home Nunez. House would hit a sacrifice fly to score Michael Gilmartin and Aliotti then singled home Crumbliss. Aliotti would get his second triple of the year in the sixth that would score two runs.
The final game of the year was not fun to watch, as the Cougars lost 7-0 and only got five hits. In the game the bullpen would be let loose. Kenneth Smalley started and went four innings. He didn't pitch that badly. He was perfect through three innings, since he is a reliever he just didn't have the stamina to go that long. In the fourth inning he would give up four hits and two runs. Schultz then ate up three-plus innings, giving up seven hits and five runs. Max Peterson went the last one and two third and gave up one hit.
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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