Italiano sparkled for the Cougars on Wednesday.
The Kane County Cougars are on a roll, and their pitching staff has been a big part of the team's early success. The staff's excellence was exemplified during the team's Wednesday double-header. The Cougars didn't allow a run in all 17 innings of the double-dip. In the second game, the Cougars' hurlers threw a no-no. We have the details inside...
Thanks to poor weather in the Chicagoland area, the Kane County Cougars and the Burlington Bees had to play two games on Wednesday after Tuesday's game was postponed. The Kane County pitching staff made it a day to remember, combining to throw 17 shut-out innings in a double-header sweep of the Bees. In Game Two, a pair of Kane County hurlers combined to throw a no-hitter. It was the sixth no-hitter in Cougars' history.
In that historic Game Two, Craig Italiano got the call for his second start of the season. The right-hander, who has struggled with injuries during his first two years in the pros, had his best start since being drafted. He dominated the Bees, allowing only a hit batsman in 5.2 spectacular innings. Italiano struck-out nine of the 18 batters he faced. The win was Italiano's first since 2005, his rookie pro season, and his first as a Kane County Cougars pitcher.
Reliever Branden Dewing came on with two-outs in the sixth to relieve Italiano and he was also outstanding. He ripped through 1.1 innings of perfect relief to close-out the no-no (in the minor leagues, teams play seven-inning games in double-header situations).
On offense, Kane County only managed three runs in Game Two, but it was more than enough to support Italiano and Dewing. Christian Vitters drove-in all three runs for the Cougars with a double and a sacrifice fly. Mike Lissman also had a double and Toddric Johnson had two hits to raise his average to .400 for the year.
The Cougars' pitching staff was almost as good in Game One as they were in Game Two. Offense was at a premium on both sides of the ball in Game One. The game was scheduled for seven innings, but the teams needed 10 innings to decide the contest. Neither team scored until the bottom of the 10th inning, when the Cougars used three walks and a hit to earn a walk-off win.
Scott Hodsdon got the start in Game One, his first appearance of the season. He pitched well, allowing four hits and a walk in 3.1 scoreless innings. Brad Hertzler took over for Hodsdon and worked 3.2 scoreless innings to get the game through regulation.
Chris Farley took over in the extra frames. He continued the shut-out with two scoreless innings. Scott Moore then worked a scoreless top of the 10th to earn the win in the marathon game.
In the 10th, the Cougars began the inning with a walk to their lead-off hitter Jonathan Johnston. The catcher walked three times in the game and stole two bases, his fifth and sixth stolen bases of the young season. Second baseman Matt Ray followed with a double that moved Johnston to third. Corey Brown was then walked intentionally to load the bases with no-outs. After Greg Dowling popped out, Jake Smith finally ended the long contest with a game-winning walk.
In addition to Johnston, Vitters also stole a base in Game One. Mike Lissman had the Cougars' other double in the game and each team only had six hits a piece in Game One.
The Cougars are now 7-0 on the young season and have an early two-game lead in their division. Kane County pitchers have now thrown 19.2 consecutive scoreless frames.