GENEVA – From Ernie Banks to Sammy Sosa, there have been several eras of Cubs baseball when saluting individual excellence had to suffice for fans because of a lack of team success.
At least for the time being, so it goes with the Kane County Cougars.
In their first three games as the Cubs' Class-A affiliate, the Cougars' Rock Shoulders has sparkled at the plate, but the team is still looking for its first win after Saturday's 13-10, 11 inning loss to Quad Cities at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
While Shoulders is establishing himself as a player to watch, Quad Cities shortstop Carlos Correa already is squarely on baseball fans' radars by virtue of being the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft. The prized Houston Astros prospect lived up to his reputation in resounding fashion Saturday, contributing four hits and five RBIs to the River Bandits' third straight win in the season-opening, four-game set.
Correa's banner day included a crushed, two-run home run as part of a six-run top of the second inning against laboring Cougars starter Jose Arias.
Shoulders, who has driven in at least one run in each of the Cougars' three games, had four hits of his own. He acknowledged watching Correa is highly entertaining.
"It's always fun to watch people like that who have got the hype and all that kind of stuff," Shoulders said. "You can't really pinpoint one. I mean, [Cougars first baseman Dan Vogelbach], I love watching him hit. ...
"There's a bunch of them out there. To play against those guys and to play with them, it's amazing."
Shoulders went 4 for 6 with two RBIs on Saturday, raising his average to .429 and helping the Cougars overcome a pair of seven-run deficits to improbably force extra innings.
Cougars right fielder Oliver Zapata highlighted an excellent day with a two-run triple to right-center field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 10. The switch-hitting Zapata also clubbed a two-run home run down the right-field line with two outs in the sixth that brought the Cougars within 8-5.
"Spring training, he swung it good, and then today, it wasn't a surprise that he was hitting the ball," Shoulders said of Zapata. "We know he can hit and for him to come out and do it, it's just what we needed."
Cougars reliever Steve Perakslis (0-1) picked up the loss after allowing three runs to Quad Cities in the top of the 11th.
With the wind gusting out for much of the afternoon, the teams combined for 36 hits, with Kane County piling up 19. In addition to the big days for Shoulders and Zapata, catcher Willson Contreras and Vogelbach each notched three hits for the Cougars.
COUGARS SHORT HOPS
Cougars (LHP Heesch) vs. Quad Cities (LHP Holmes), 1 p.m. Sunday, AM-1280
Saturday's crowd of 2.428 pushed the Cougars' season total to 8,976 through three home dates. Kane County attracted 12,175 through three games last year.
Fans scurrying for protection below the upper deck when a light drizzle stiffened briefly during extra innings.
Cubs brass will be excited because
Right fielder Oliver Zapata had a breakthrough game offensively, showing plenty of pop with a two-run home run and a game-tying triple in the ninth that wasn't far from leaving the yard and ending the game.
Cubs brass will cringe because
Starting pitcher Jose Arias couldn't make it out of the second inning, allowing seven runs, six earned, in 1 2/3 innings before giving way to relievers Nathan Dorris, Ian Dickson and Steve Perakslis.
Cougars fans would have loved to see the team's first win, but watching Quad Cities phenom Carlos Correa do his thing wasn't a bad consolation prize. Correa showcased power, speed (he beat out an infield single for one of his five RBIs) and a slick glove at shortstop in helping the River Bandits send the Cougars to an 0-3 start.