Cougars drop playoff opener
The Clinton LumberKings put at least one runner on base in every inning against the Kane County Cougars pitching staff in their 7-3 playoff opening win Wednesday night at Nelson Corp Field. The Cougars are on the brink of elimination and need to win out in the final two games of the series to keep their season alive.
Neither team scored through the first four innings of the ballgame, but the lack of offense came in very different ways. Clinton stranded two runners in each of the first four frames, while the Cougars had one scoring threat with the bases loaded in the third. Despite walking five, Cougars starter Levi Kelly battled for three innings issuing no runs.
Clinton first struck in the bottom of the fifth when Bubba Hollins belted a 3-run homer off of reliever Andy Toelken with 2 outs. It was a short-lived 3-run lead, because Cougars outfielders Tra Holmes and Dominic Fletcher each singled to bring the tying run up to the plate. Zack Shannon finished the regular season with a team-leading 12 home runs and worked an 8-pitch at-bat against Clinton starter Remey Reed before blasting a game-tying homer over the left center field fence.
Just as the Cougars felt the tide turning their way, Clinton rallied again, this time with Chester Pimentel (0-1) on the mound. Samuel Castro singled and, after 2 outs, Peyton Burdick walked to continue the inning. Then Kameron Misner launched another 3-run homer to put Clinton ahead for good.
Thomas Jones tacked on one more run for Clinton to put the LumberKings ahead 7-3. The Cougars didn't record a hit after Shannon's homer.
Game 2 is a must win for the Cougars and they'll send out right-hander Matt Tabor (5-4, 2.93) to the mound against Clinton's Jake Walters (7-4, 2.35). First pitch from Northwestern Medicine Field is at 6:30 Thursday.