GENEVA – It was quite a day for Kane County Cougars relief pitcher Josh Davis. Not even 24 hours ago, Davis was in extended spring training in Mesa, Ariz., before being called to Kane County for Saturday’s game against Lake County.
Davis was called upon in the seventh in relief of Scott Frazier, who walked the bases loaded, and quickly induced an inning-ending double play. The Cougars scored four times in the bottom half of the seventh and hung on for a 9-8 win at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
The victory ensured a second straight series win, with recently called-up prospect Duane Underwood slated to make the start on the mound for the Cougars in Sunday's series finale.
“Did that just happen? We normally don’t want to do that but we were in a pinch with some arms, so he did a good job,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said of Davis. “He came in and said he is ready to go so it’s good for him to get in there and get his feet wet.”
After Davis worked out of the bases loaded jam in the seventh, Kane County’s offense erupted for four runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 9-5 lead.
Captains pitcher Trevor Frank was on the verge of getting out of the inning after walking both Will Remillard and Carlos Penalver to start the frame. But Ben Rogers, who doubled in a run in his previous at-bat, launched a towering, opposite field three-run homer that gave the Cougars the lead back. David Bote ripped Frank’s next pitch over the left field wall to go back-to-back with Rogers.
“I've been struggling here and there and I’ve found a way to get through it,” Rogers said. “Our hitting coach has been pushing me to keep on trying to do good things and being positive at the plate. I was looking to get a good fastball to hit and I was surprised he gave it to me.”
Prior to the seventh inning misstep, Lake County could only muster one run off starter Juan Paniagua and reliever Gerardo Concepcion. Paniagua went four innings, allowing two hits and one unearned run. The right-hander sat at 93-94 mph, touching 96 on several occasions. The only run he allowed was a passed ball in the third.
“He had really good stuff today. I think he spiked maybe 15 fastballs,” Johnson said. “Sometimes he’s streaky where he throws six or seven pitches and he’s lights out and then throws six or seven that he’s missing. He’s better than what he was in terms of tempo and times to the plate. He is turning the corner a little bit, he has to get a little more consistent.”
Run-scoring hits from Ben Carhart and Bote staked Paniagua to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Cougars added on three runs in the fifth on an RBI single from Yasiel Balaguert and an RBI double from Rogers.
The three-run fifth broke a string of innings that Lake County starter Adam Plutko dominated. The most outstanding player of the 2013 College World Series for UCLA, Plutko used a low-90s fastball and worked down in the zone.
“He was changing up real well. He was throwing a regular fastball at maybe 91 and then he would throw a BP fastball,” Rogers said. “It’s the same arm motion, he just takes a little bit off of it. It was hard to recognize and he could throw on both sides of the plate.”
Kane County was forced to sweat out the ninth inning after the Captains scored three runs in the inning and brought the tying run to the plate. But Tyler Bremer struck out Brian Ruiz looking to end the game.
Rogers and Bote led a nine-hit Kane County attack with two hits apiece.