Kane County Cougars are in the playoffs despite 11-inning loss

In a thrilling series opener, the Lincoln Saltdogs defeated the Kane County Cougars 4-3 in 11 innings on Friday night at Northwestern Medicine Field.

But despite the loss, the Cougars clinched a spot in the postseason thanks to the Sioux Falls Canaries' victory over the Cleburne Railroaders.

The Miles Wolff Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday, Sept. 6. The Cougars' opponent and home dates are yet to be determined.

The game Friday night entered extra innings tied at one. With Daniel Bies on the mound for the Cougars (48-49), Lincoln (46-51) struck for one run in the 10th inning on an RBI single by Nate Samson. But the Cougars quickly responded in the bottom of the 10th, as Olivier Basabe ripped a clutch single to score Josh Allen and tie the game at two.

Logan Nissen (3-6) entered the game in the 11th for the Cougars. After Luis Roman flied out, Drew Devine hit a single to put runners at first and third. Connor Panas hit a fly ball to shallow center that was caught by Michael Woodworth, but Woodworth's throw took a bad hop on the way to the plate, allowing Samson to score the go-ahead run. The Saltdogs added another as Zane Zurbrugg blooped a single to right field to make it 4-2.

In the bottom of the 11th, the Cougars rallied against Lincoln reliever Wyatt Sparks. With Galli Cribbs Jr. starting the inning at second base, Ernny OrdoƱez ripped an RBI single to pull the Cougars within a run. Cornelius Randolph smacked another base hit to put two men aboard. But Sparks induced back-to-back pop outs from Todd Lott and Josh Allen to end the ballgame and give Lincoln a 4-3 victory.

Earlier in the night, the game was a pitchers' duel between the two starters. CJ Eldred was once again fantastic for the Cougars. The right-hander allowed just 1 run on 4 hits while striking out six hitters against one walk. On the other side for Lincoln, Josh Roeder limited the Cougars to just 1 run across his five innings of work.

Kane County took the first lead of the night in the bottom of the fifth inning. Lott led off the frame with a hustle double down the right field line. Two batters later, Jonah Davis drove in Lott with an RBI-triple into the right field corner to make it 1-0 Cougars. The lead ended up being short-lived, as Connor Panas belted a solo homer in the top of sixth to tie the game at one before the late drama.

RJ Freure (5-2) earned the win for Lincoln by allowing just one unearned run across 2.1 innings of work. Freuere struck out three Cougars' hitters in his appearance.

The Cougars continue the series with the Saltdogs on Saturday night. Left-hander Abdallah Aris (5-4, 4.50 ERA) will take the mound for Lincoln against Cougars' righty Karch Kowalczyk (0-0-1.13 ERA).

Saturday's game will be Stars Wars Night at Northwestern Medicine Field.

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