Herrera worked five innings in relief of Rodriguez
GENEVA, IL - The Kane County Cougars hitting woes continued Sunday night at Elfstrom Stadium as Clinton LumberKings LHP Broc Coffman (5-0) puzzled hitters all day hurling seven innings of three-hit ball while giving up one run to earn the victory.
The Cougars made a surge in the bottom of the ninth like they have done most of the season yet again came up short. Cougars’ manager Aaron Nieckula was happy the team didn’t give up but was ultimately upset that they couldn’t get over the hump.
“We’re not in the business of making things interesting,” said Nieckula. “We’ve made it interesting so many times this year and come up short. It’s a beaten path now and at some point in time we have to start winning.”
Cougars’ starting pitcher Henry Rodriguez didn’t have one of his best outings as a high pitch count forced Nieckula to pull him after only four innings of work. Rodriguez gave up five hits and two runs on the day while walking four and shouldering the loss.
“Rodriguez did not have his best command tonight,” said Nieckula. “I don’t think he lit up the gun like he usually does and his fastball command was sporadic. He didn’t have a quality start but he did minimize the damage and gave us a chance to stay in the game.”
John Herrera came in to spell Rodriguez and faired about the same giving up three runs in five innings of work off eight hits. The two pitchers combined to give up 13 hits on the day while Kane County's offense managed only three hits going into the eighth inning.
“It’s tough to win when one or two guys are getting hits,” Nieckula said about the first seven innings. “Coffman went seven strong innings, and he was getting ahead of hitters. When you’re down in the count 0-1 consistently, it’s tough to get hits.”
Of the six hits the Cougars combined for on the day, three were by 2B Larry Cobb, who had two singles and a solo home run – his third home run of the year.
The LumberKings broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth by capitalizing on a leadoff double from 1B Mauro Gomez. After the double, Rodriguez walked 3B Jay Heafner and C Kevin Gossage bunted both players over to put runners on second and third with one out. After Rodriguez struck out CF David Paisano, Marcus Lemon hit a two-out RBI double scoring both runners to give Clinton a 2-0 lead.
Clinton added another insurance run in the top of the fifth after Gomez’s second double of the game plated RF K.C. Herren, who had gotten on base after a fielder choice earlier in the inning.
The Cougars finally struck in the bottom of the sixth on the solo blast from Cobb. However, it wasn’t enough as the LumberKings added two more runs to lead 5-1 going into the ninth.
LumberKings relief pitcher Jeremiah Haar came in to close out the ninth but got into some trouble. Two consecutive singles from DH Haas Pratt and 1B Greg Dowling and a walk to newly acquired C David Castillo loaded up the bases with no outs. However, the Cougars could only plate one run off a sacrifice fly from SS Alex Valdez.
“We’re down four going into the ninth, and we had some quality at bats,” Nieckula said about the comeback effort. “They didn’t back down and fought until the end but it wasn’t enough.”
The loss moves the Cougars record to 15-41 while improving Clinton to 33-21. The Cougars continue their four-game home stand tonight against Clinton. Trevor Cahill (1-1) will make his fourth career start in a Cougars uniform while Mike Ballard (6-4) will take the mound for the LumberKings.
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m.