GENEVA – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Peoria Chiefs gave the Cougars every opportunity Monday to extend their season, but the Cougars weren’t able to take advantage.
Kane County came into the final game of the regular season at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark 11⁄2 games behind Burlington for the final playoff spot in the Midwest League’s Western Division. The Cougars needed a victory over the Chiefs and a Wisconsin sweep of a doubleheader at Burlington to reach the postseason. But while the Timber Rattlers were keeping up their end of the bargain with a 6-1 victory in the first game at Burlington, the Cougars dropped a 6-2 decision to the Chiefs, leaving a dozen men on base in the process.
“It’s a disappointing feeling,” Kane County catcher Kenny Swab said. “That’s what you pride yourself on, one-out and two-out base hits with guys in scoring position. That’s what wins championships.”
Swab did his part, reaching base four times and belting a two-run homer to left off Willengton Cruz with two outs in the sixth inning to trim the Peoria lead to 5-2.
“It was just a fastball he left up,” Swab said. “It was a 1-0 count and I got a good swing on it. Luckily, it got out of here with the wind today.”
The wind – officially 6 mph blowing out to center field – had little to do with Swab’s success and didn’t seem to help the Cougars (68-72 overall, 34-36 second half) much the following inning, when Alex Llanos ripped a deep fly to left with the bases loaded that was caught on the warning track.
“He hit that pretty good,” Kane County manager Buck Buchanan said. “It sounded good and looked good off the bat and kind of went out there and died.”
Buchanan also listed as a crucial missed opportunity failing to score in the third inning with the bases loaded and no outs. A popout to second by Dean Espy and double play off the bat of Julio Aparicio ended the threat as the Chiefs (63-75, 28-41) exhaled.
“That would have been huge if we had scored there,” Buchanan said. “We had some opportunities to score some runs. We just couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it. I thought the pitchers did well and the defense was good, we just fell short.”
Mike Giovenco took the loss, surrendering five earned runs in 41⁄3 innings. The Elmhurst native started strong, breezing through the Peoria order the first time without allowing a hit. But the Chiefs scored five times in the next two innings, with the big blow a three-run homer to left by Yaniel Cabezas. Giovenco hit the next batter and was ejected from the game by home plate umpire James Rackley.
“It was just one of those things,” Swab said of Giovenco‘s outing. “He threw the ball great today. … I thought he was making some good pitches. In this game, sometimes things just don’t go your way and I thought that was the case today.”