GENEVA – A five-run eighth-inning rally Friday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark gave the Kane County Cougars something they haven’t had in the second half of the Midwest League season – back-to-back wins.
The 8-7 victory over Quad Cities also guaranteed the Cougars (34-47 overall, 4-11 second half) at least at least two wins in the five-game series. The Cougars have not won a series since taking two out of three games at Burlington a month ago.
Kane County manager Mark Johnson said he hoped the rally will give his team a spark.
“We’ve been resilient offensively all year,” he said. “Our defense has let us down quite a bit. Our pitching has let us down sometimes, but our offense has always battled back.”
The Cougars entered the bottom of the eight trailing, 6-3. Three walks and a hit batter helped plate a pair of runs, and Giuseppe Papaccio – making his Cougars debut – tied the game with a two-strike single up the middle off John Neely (2-5).
“He left one in a little bit and I just got a tiny bit of barrel on it,” Papaccio said. “I just got it through the infield. I was just trying to stay short with two strikes.”
Gioskar Amaya followed with a bloop double down the right field line to give the Cougars an 8-6 lead.
Justin Amlung gave up a run in the ninth on a two-out single by Roberto Pena, but picked up the save, his first of the season
Pena was 4 for 5 at the plate with three RBIs. His single in the top of the eighth snapped a 3-3 tie and was part of a three-run rally by the River Bandits off Cougars reliever Lendy Castillo.
Despite giving up those runs, Castillo (2-5) picked up the victory thanks to the Cougars’ rally in the bottom of the frame.
Brian Smith started on the mound for the Cougars and retired 10 batters in a row after giving up a home run to the first hitter of the game, Teoscar Hernandez.
Papaccio, who was promoted to the Cougars this week after hitting .312 in just nine games at Rookie League Mesa, also had a double and made a couple of good defensive plays at third base in front of 6,754 fans at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
“It was awesome to get a win and be out here in front of all these people,” Papaccio said. “Being in rookie ball’s a lot different. There was probably like five people out there. … It was awesome hearing everybody cheering for you. It’s a great atmosphere to be in.”
Papaccio graduated from Seton Hall this year and was an 18th round draft choice of the Cubs in this year’s draft. He started all 112 games at shortstop for Seton Hall over the past two seasons and led the Pirates with a .365 average.
“I’ve played shortstop pretty much my whole life,” he said. “My first two years of college, they actually moved me to third just for like defensive purposes. So I’ve played third a bunch of times – probably almost 100 games in college my freshman and sophomore years. I mean I’m familiar with it, but I haven’t even been over there … the last two years.”
Albert Almora tripled and homered for the Cougars, and Dan Vogelbach continued his recent hot streak, going 2 for 4 at the plate with a homer and two RBIs.