Cougars face Kernals for West crown

Kane County takes on Cedar Rapids (Twins) in the best-of-three series for a trip to the Midwest League Finals. Here’s a preview of the series.

Kane County heads to Cedar Rapids on Saturday for Game 1 of the Midwest League Western Division finals with a trip to the championship on the line in the best-of-three series.

The Cougars send Daury Torrez to the mound. The right-hander went 11-7 in 131.1 innings, led the Midwest League with a 1.00 WHIP and sported a 2.74 ERA. Torrez faced the Kernals twice, a loss on May 1 and five shutout innings on June 19. He earned MWL pitcher of the week honors for June 23-29.

The Kernals will counter with Ryan Eads (10-11, 5.14 ERA) on Saturday night. The right-hander from LSU faced the Cougars three times, allowing two runs in 16 innings on nine hits.

Kane County played seven games at Cedar Rapids in the second half, winning four, including the final two of a three-game series on Aug. 28-29.

Midwest League Manager of the Year Mark Johnson has dealt with over 90 rosters moves throughout the season and the Cougars have just kept winning. Its no secret to their success—good pitching, solid defense, timely hitting and aggressive base running. They’ve put on a clinic, setting a franchise record with 91 wins and walking away with both halves of the West Division.

With an organization flush with top prospects, Kane County’s roster has been nearly void of those names with Kyle Schwarber making a brief appearance before heading to Daytona. The Cubs have also promoted their leadoff man (Jacob Hannemann), two top relief pitchers (Nathan Dorris and Zack Godley) and two starters from the six-man rotation (Tyler Skulina and Juan Paniagua).

Left-fielder Shawon Dunston has moved in the lead off spot since Hannemann’s departure and is hitting .283/.313/.413 with 24 runs and 15 stolen bases in 35 games. SS Carlos Penalver only hit .212 in 128 games but possess a big league glove and a highlight reel of web gems to prove it. First baseman Jacob Rogers, team high 129 games, has been the consistent leader of the Cougars with his play on the field and maturity in the clubhouse. He leads the Cougars with 16 homers and 67 RBI, and finished the year with a slash line of .268/.361/.445.

The Kernals offense is led by MWL All-Star catcher Mitch Garver (.298/.399/.481) as the 23-year-old spent the entire year with the Kernals, slugging 16 homers and knocking in 79.

Kane County sends Paul Blackburn to the mound on Sunday as the series moves back to Geneva. The right-hander went 9-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 117 innings and a 1.19 WHIP. The Kernals have beaten the right-hander in both of his starts against them (10 IP, 6H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K). If the series goes three games, Jen-Ho Tseng is the likely starter for the finale.

Sunday evening’s 6 p.m. game is a Kids Eat Free game as children between the ages of 3-10 will receive a voucher valid for a hot dog and soda. Gates for Sunday’s game will open at 5 p.m at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

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