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KC Cougars

Cougars surprise Beloit with late rally

Almora leaves game with hamstring strain

Cougars center fielder Albert Almora slips and slides past the ball during Monday's 
game against Beloit. Almora left the game with what was described as a high strain in 
his left hamstring.
Cougars center fielder Albert Almora slips and slides past the ball during Monday's game against Beloit. Almora left the game with what was described as a high strain in his left hamstring.

GENEVA – Baseball players can be a superstitious lot, so when designated hitter Dan Vogelbach had three hits including a home run Monday afternoon for the Kane County Cougars wearing jersey No. 23 instead of his usual No. 3, it was reasonable to ask if he might consider a permanent uniform number change.

“Nah, I just wore it today,” Vogelbach chuckled. “I don’t plan on switching.”

The Cougars (24-25) might want to keep wearing the patriotic red, white, and blue uniforms they wore in honor of Memorial Day after a rare late-inning rally made them 8-4 winners over Beloit at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Vogelbach’s two-run homer onto the right field patio capped a five-run eighth-inning rally for the Cougars that wiped out a 4-3 deficit.

“The past couple games, I’ve just been trying to slow everything down,” Vogelbach said. “Sometimes, I get too fast, try to do too much with things, so I’ve just been slowing it down and the past few series I’ve been seeing the ball really well. I try not to worry about the home runs. They’re going to come. I just try to hit good pitches, hit them hard, and today I was able to lift one out.”

The rally began with much-less potent, but equally effective hitting by the Cougars off Beloit reliever Andres Avila (0-1). Marco Hernandez got things started with a bunt single and Gioskar Amaya followed with a broken-bat infield single to short. Yaniel Cabezas advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and Hernandez scored the tying run on Oliver Zapata’s grounder to second when catcher Nick Rickles could not hang on to his tag attempt. The home plate umpire initially called Hernandez out.

Pin-Chieh Chen delivered the game-winning hit, a two-run single to left, in advance of Vogelbach’s big fly.

“We got fortunate,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “Amaya did a great job on that hit-and-run and Cabezas got the bunt down, which was huge. Chen came up there and was aggressive, which is what we’ve been trying to get him to be all year.”

Chen is hitting .238 with 13 RBIs on the season. His hit made a winner out of Steve Perakslis (1-2), who threw three solid innings in relief of Michael Heesch.

“Perakslis did a [heck] of a job,” Johnson said. “He really picked us up big time.”

Heesch struggled through the first six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits. The third inning, when the Snappers (29-21) scored a pair of runs, was particularly rocky, though Heesch really wasn’t to blame for the first one. Rickles opened the frame with a line drive that was misjudged by Albert Almora in center field. Almora initially broke in on the ball, then stumbled trying to reverse directions and go back. Rickles wound up with a triple and Almora left the game at the end of the half inning with what Johnson described as a strain in his left hamstring.

“He’s got a little tight hammy,” Johnson said. “A real high tweak if you will. He didn’t really pull it.”

Johnson said the Cougars would see how Almora felt today when the team opens a short, three-day road trip to the Quad Cities, but suggested the Cubs’ 2012 first-round draft choice might take a day or two off.

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