Live From Kane County: Cahill, Mitchell Star

Cahill was strong again for the Cougars

GENEVA, IL - When the Kane County Cougars have trailed after seven innings this season, it's been all but certain that they will lose. In 55 games this year in which the team has trailed heading into the eighth inning, the Cougars have won once. So when the team trailed the Dayton Dragons 1-0 heading into the eighth inning Monday, things didn't look so promising for the Cougars.

However, a solo home run in the eighth by LF Jermaine Mitchell and a walk-off double by 1B Sean Doolittle in extra innings propelled the team to a 2-1 victory and snapped their two-game skid against the Dragons.

After the game, Cougars' manager Aaron Nieckula reflected on the comeback effort.

"It was a nice come from behind victory," Nieckula said.

"We haven't had too many of those this year on the road or at home. It was good to see the team never quit."

RHP Trevor Cahill pitched his second straight quality outing, dominating the Dragons' hitters on the day. Cahill, who pitched seven innings of four-hit ball, only surrendered one run on a questionable call from base umpire Antonio Gutierrez.

The controversial call came in the top of the fourth inning when Dragons' cleanup hitter Juan Francisco drilled a Cahill pitch that appeared to ricochet off the top of the fence. However, Gutierrez ruled the hit a home run that sent Nieckula immediately to the field to protest. Despite a heated confrontation, Nieckula lost the battle and the solo home run stood giving the Dragons a 1-0 lead. Nieckula later gave his impressions of the incident.

"The ball hit the wall and came back into play," Nieckula said.

"According to the ground rule that I have in my book here, [Nieckula opens up a locker and pops out his rule book] that is not a home run. I asked the umpire if the ball hit the wood (which would have been a home run) and he said no. So to me that's a live ball. He [Gutierrez] said the ball hit the top of the wall and that constitutes a home run."

After Cahill finished the seventh inning, he was replaced by the recently promoted LHP Nick Walters. Walters would finish the game for the Cougars, hurling the last three innings while giving up zero hits and striking out six.

"Walters came in and mowed them [Dayton] down," Nieckula said about the relief pitcher's performance.

"Right-handed batters, left-handed batters, it didn't matter who he faced. He could become a very reliable, consistent arm coming out of the bullpen for us."

After the Mitchell solo shot in the eighth tied the game, both teams struggled to get anything going in the ninth and they were headed to extra innings. With two-outs in the bottom of the 10th, Mitchell came up to the plate again attempting to play the role of hero. On a 2-2 pitch, Mitchell lined a shot up the middle that appeared to be a routine single. However, with Mitchell – one of the fastest if not the fastest runners in the league – nothing is routine.

"I'm always thinking about getting two [bases] when I come out of the box," Mitchell said. "I thought it was close to the gap so I knew I had a chance to beat out a throw."

Mitchell did beat out the throw with a hook slide to the left side of second base with two outs to keep the inning going. 1B Sean Doolittle came to the plate and hit the game-winning double to the left-center gap to score Mitchell easily and give the team a 2-1 victory.

The Cougars used tremendous pitching on the day to secure the victory. However, Nieckula knew it was one that would never have happened if not for the heroics of Mitchell.

"Jermaine had the big home run in the eighth and made something out of nothing on that double in the 10th," Nieckula said.

"That's the way the game is supposed to be played. Any ball that's hit anywhere, you're supposed to run it out 100 percent. It was a borderline single and Mitchell busted his butt out of the box and he took advantage of his speed."

Walters (2-0) earned the victory for the Cougars, while Lee Tabor suffered the loss (4-2) and a blown save, his first on the season.

Mitchell was the only player to have a multi-hit game with the solo blast and double in the 10th. In addition to improving their record when trailing after seven innings, the Cougars snapped their winless streak in extra innings. Before Monday's victory, the team was a dismal 0-7 in extras.

The Cougars are 1-2 in their four-game series against the Dragons and hope to even the series at two games apiece on Tuesday. Scott Deal (4-8, 4.53 ERA) will take the mound for the Cougars while Jordan Smith (7-6, 3.35 ERA) will pitch for the Dragons.

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