Cougars advance to championship series
The Kane County Cougars are making their first Midwest League finals appearance since 2006.
They will have two days to prepare for their Eastern Division opponent. A 4-2 victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels gave the Cougars the Western Division championship Sunday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
Through 478 at-bats during the regular season, Carlos Penalver connected on only 1 home run. His second longball pushed the Cougars ahead in the seventh inning.
After Chad Christensen swatted a 2-run homer in the top of the seventh off Tyler Ihrig, Penalver ripped a 2-run smash of his own to put the Cougars on top 3-2. The Cougars scored an insurance run with an RBI single from Chesny Young in the eighth.
Both starting pitchers worked 5 inning shutouts but received no-decisions. Paul Blackburn faced the minimum and only allowed one baserunner on a one-out single from Ryan Walker. The Cougars' right-hander struck out seven.
John Curtiss made his Midwest League debut, keeping the Cougars scoreless and walking three.
Jacob Rogers was first to put a run on the board with a solo shot off Jared Wilson (1-1) in the bottom of the sixth.
Francisco Carrillo finished the ninth by striking out Christensen and Max Murphy for his second save of the postseason.
The Midwest League championship series begins Wednesday against either the Fort Wayne Tin Caps or the Lake County Captains. With the Eastern Division club having homefield advantage, the Cougars will host the first two games. The Wednesday and Thursday games will begin at 6 p.m. at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.