Hernandez hit a grand-slam in the title-clincher.
Although the Kane County Cougars have been in the post-season on a regular basis for the past several years, the 2009 season will be the first one where they can point to being division champions since 2004. Kane County used two consecutive shut-out wins to secure the division crown over the weekend. David Malamut reviews the championship week...
The Cougars are 2009 1st half Western Divison Champions of the Midwest League. This mean they will face the second half wild card team on September 9th, at home. The Cougars were 3-4 on the week, and in two of the games they looked more like a last place team than in first place.
On Monday, the Cougars played the second game of the series against Cedar Rapids. They would lose 6-1, after they ran into a great pitching effort by Kernel starter Will Smith. Smith went eight innings, giving up five hits and one run. The Cougars did have chances the game. The one run they scored came in the third inning when Dusty Coleman doubled off the left field wall to bring home Jason Christian, who had doubled down the left field line. Anthony Capra only lasted four innings, giving up three hits and three runs. His biggest problem was walks and errors. He walked three, and a run scored on a Steve Kleen error. Scott Deal, Josue Selenis, Brett Hunter and Jamie Richmond combined to go four innings, giving up five hits and three runs.
The next game was on Tuesday in Cedar Rapids and it was a heartbreaker, as the Cougars would lose 7-6 in 14 innings. Christian and Petey Paramore both homered. Kleen drove in a run with a single in the first. Matt Ray drove in a run in the second with an infield singe, and in the ninth with a bases loaded walk. Coleman drove in a run in the second with a single. Shawn Haviland gave up five first inning runs, and it looked really bad for the Cougars early. He gave up a bases loaded triple to Matt Crawford to cap off the inning. Jason Ray, Trey Barham, Justin Murray and Mickey Storey all pitched scoreless outings in relief to give the Cougars a chance to send it into extra-innings. Scott Deal gave up a two-out solo homer to Roberto Lopez to end the game.
In the game on Wednesday the Cougars won 11-3 and they came alive at the plate. Pedro Figueroa pitched a good game, as he went six innings and gave up seven hits but only three runs. Jamie Richmond then came on and pitched a perfect three innings of relief. Jeremy Barfield, Christian and Kleen all hit homers. Kleen had three hits and Barfield drove in three runs. Juan Nunez also had three hits.
The first game back home against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers was a disaster, as they would lose 6-1 and it could've been much worse. Kenneth Smalley last four innings, giving up four hits and three runs. He walked five Rattlers. In the game the Cougars would walk nine and give up seven stolen bases. Josue Selenes then came in an pitched a forgetable inning. He gave up three hits, two runs, two walks and somehow struck out three. The Cougars run came in the sixth, when Paramore drove home Coleman with a double to left center. Three innings and the game would all end on double plays against Kane County.
The game on Friday was called because of severe weather so the Cougars had a double header on Saturday. In the first game it was over in the first three innings. Matt Fitts lasted four batters into the third inning, and he gave up seven hits and six runs. The biggest problem was a five-run third inning. He gave up two hits and two walks to lead off the inning, then Trey Barham came in and didn't help much. He would eventually get out of the inning. After that inning Barham and Jamie Richmond would retire 12 out of the last 15 hitters they faced. The Cougars scored in the third inning, when Kleen singled home Coleman and Christian singled home Dusty Napoleon in the seventh inning.
Wow, what a diffrence a game can make. In game two of the double-header, it was a completly different story, as the Cougars would win, 2-0. Anthony Capra pitched fantastic. He would go six innings, giving up only two hits, both of which would lead off innings. He did not walk anyone and struck out five. Mickey Storey pitched the last inning. Both of the Cougars' runs came in the first inning. Christian scored on a wild pitch, and Coleman scored on a Grant Desme ground out. The Cougars would get the leadoff man on base in three of the next five innings, and would not score. They grounded into two double plays. That win ensured that the Cougars would make the playoffs, at least as a wildcard team.
On Sunday, Shawn Haviland was in complete control of the Rattlers in the final game of the first half, as they would win 6-0 to clinch the division title. Haviland pitched six innings, and gave up three hits. He struck out five and walked one. Jason Ray and Justin Murray then came in also pitched scoreless innings of relief. Murray walked two in the ninth to make things interesting. The Cougars struck out 10 Rattlers. They were off and running early, as Christian would be caught on a double steal at home for the second out of the first inning. Coleman then would be out at home trying to score to end the inning. In the second inning, with one out and the bases loaded. Franklin Hernandez hit a grand slam. In the third inning, Paramore singled home Coleman. Christian then hit a solo shot in the fourth to seal the deal.
The Cougars and the rest of the league are now in their All-Star break. The Cougars finished 41-29 and one game up on Cedar Rapids and Clinton. They also finished with 20 straight scoreless innings pitched, going back to the first game of the double-header on the 20th.
Seven Cougars will participate in the Midwest League All-Star game on Tuesday in Clinton, IA. Jeremy Barfield will be in the home run contest on Monday.
The second half starts on Thursday in Quad Cities (St. Louis). Pedro Figueroa is scheduled to pitch the opener. The Cougars start out the second half with four games in Davenport, IA, and then they have an off day on the 29th, before facing the Peoria Chiefs at home on the 30th.
About the writer
David Malamut has been a season ticket holder of the Cougars for the past 13 years. He has also been writing a daily website about the team for that long at http://malamut.net. David wrote a book about the history of the Cougars in 2005. Baseball In Kane County, Arcadia Publishing. For daily updates on the Cougars, stats and game stories please go to David's website, Voice of A Season Ticket Holder, http://malamut.net. You can also follow the Cougars on my twitter page, http://twitter.com/davidmalamut