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Cougars’ late-game ‘grit’ on display

Rogers’ go-ahead double in 8th proves decisive

GENEVA – When a team is this hot, hard-to-explain victories can result.

The Cougars won their ninth straight game Tuesday despite being outhit, 13-4, by the Burlington Bees as Kane County rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 4-3 victory at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

The Cougars (37-20 second half, 82-45 overall) trailed 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when third baseman Jeimer Candelario walked, followed by a Yasiel Balaguert single. 

Burlington relief pitcher Alan Busenitz then threw a ball to the backstop to advance both runners, and with two strikes, first baseman Jacob Rogers launched a double to left-center to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs. 

“With two strikes I was kind of just looking for a ball up.” Rogers said. “I feel like our whole team is a bunch of [scrappers], everybody can get it done.”

The Bees (26-31, 64-62) struck first in the first frame on a RBI single by Eric Aguilera. Cougars starter Paul Blackburn (9-4) allowed a runner to reach base in all five innings of work. He scattered eight hits over those innings and allowed only one earned run.

Zak Hermans got the win, giving up four hits and one run in three innings. Francisco Carrillo (save) entered the game in the ninth inning to close down the win.

Kane County got on the board in the fourth when designated hitter Mark Zagunis walked with the bases loaded to tie the score at 1. 

Designated hitter Mike Fish moved the Bees back on top with an RBI single in the top of the fifth, but that was quickly erased in the bottom of the frame when center fielder Trey Martin blasted his fourth home run of the season. Bees leadoff hitter Bo Way doubled in Stephen McGee to give the Bees a 3-2 lead in the seventh.

Cougars manager Mark Johnson gave credit to his players for never giving up late in games.

“We have that grit and resiliency all year,” Johnson said. “It’s that will to want to win and to be the one in that spot.”

Bees starting pitcher Daniel Hurtado entered the game with a 1.96 ERA in nine starts and finished his day relinquishing only two hits in six innings of work. Busenitz was tacked with the loss in relief.

The Cougars are closing in on franchise records for home wins (50 set in 2001) and total wins (88, also set in 2001). They have 17 remaining games.

“Every day, pitch to pitch,” is what Johnson is preaching coming down the stretch. 

The Cougars and Bees square off at 1 p.m. today in Geneva with the Bees’ Alex Blackford (1-3 2.39 ERA) facing the Cougars’ Duane Underwood (5-4 2.49 ERA).

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