GENEVA – The Cougars clicked their heels upon taking the field for Thursday’s game against Beloit, a nod to the late namesake of Ron Santo Night.
Crossing their fingers in unison won’t be next.
Oliver Zapata scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning, handing the Cougars an 8-7 victory after they had opened the second half of the season with six consecutive losses.
Errors, wild pitches and other misfortunes – the frustrating stuff of the skid that’s no more – added up to a 7-2 hole for the Cougars after five innings.
“When things are rolling, it seems like teams capitalize more frequently when you make mistakes, and that’s the nature of the game,” Snappers manager Ryan Christenson said beforehand.
Cougars designated hitter Rock Shoulders blasted a three-run homer over the Leinie Lodge in right field in the bottom of the seventh to bring the Cougars to within 7-6. Albert Almora’s two-out infield single tied the game in the eighth.
A rough start put the Cougars in a bind before that. All-Star right-hander Tayler Scott retired Beloit (48-29 overall, 5-2 second half) in order in the first inning, but not much else went smoothly after that.
Scott’s wild pitch on a strikeout and a throwing error later in the second helped Snappers third baseman Renato Nunez score the game’s first run. The Snappers scored at least once in the next three innings.
Two Cougars errors, two wild pitches and a passed ball kept those Beloit rallies afloat, while providing potentially pleasant conversation for the Snappers’ ride home. Beloit and Kane County (31-42, 1-6) make the 75-mile commute on the same day whenever the clubs visit one another.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Snappers second baseman Sam Roberts said, “because after the games it kind of gives you time to get over the game and slow down before you get home, you know. As opposed to when we stay at a hotel, you get back and you’re kind of still amped up from the game. I actually enjoy it.”
Plainfield Central product Derek DeYoung limited the Cougars to four hits in five innings, including doubles from Almora and Gioskar Amaya.
Almora (center field) and Amaya (second base) were among the starters who took part in the Cougars’ heel click as they hopped over the first-base line and jogged to their positions to begin the game.
The leaping heel click was the gesture for which Santo – the Cubs’ legendary third baseman from 1960-1973 – became famous. Santo lived with diabetes and was active in funding research to find a cure until his December 2010 death.
The Cougars auctioned off a replica No. 10 Santo jersey, with proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Santo’s son, Ron Jr., escorted a JDRF youth representative to the mound for a ceremonial first pitch before the game.
“We’re certainly involved carrying on as long as they want us to carry on his name with JDRF,” Santo Jr. said. “The whole family’s still involved, certainly with the walk, the golf outing, but mainly the walk and anything to do with finding a cure. That’s for sure. Certainly, that’s what he’d want.”
COUGARS SHORT HOPS
Beloit (RHP Dakota Bacus, 6-2, 3.95 ERA) at Cougars (LHP Michael Heesch, 3-5, 3.73 ERA), 6:30 p.m. today, AM-1280
Thursday’s crowd of 5,358 pushed the Cougars’ season total to 191,087 fans in 35 home games. Kane County attracted 172,045 fans through the same span last season.
Funny car driver Ron Capps, decked out in his Napa Auto Parts-sponsored gear, threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game.
Cubs brass will be excited because
The Cougars’ big bats kept them in the game. Even as things looked dire, there was still the idea that one big fly from designated Rock Shoulders could put Kane County back in it. Shoulders delivered with his 15th homer of the season.
Cubs brass will cringe because
Early errors and other lapses again put the Cougars behind the 8-ball to begin the game, which has been the norm during their skid to begin the second half of the Midwest League season.
Can a thrilling finish propel a turnaround? The Cougars would like to think so after Oliver Zapata’s hustle put them in position to win a game in which they trailed, 7-2, after five innings.