GENEVA – Following the usual protocol of Ozzie’s Reading Club matinees, thousands of schoolchildren dispersed before the Cougars recorded the final out against Beloit on Tuesday afternoon.
The kiddos missed Zack Godley’s baffling cutter that punctuated a 5-4 victory as well as an accompanying lesson in compromise.
Summoned with two on and two out after Jose Arias allowed a pair of runs to open the ninth inning, Godley conferred with catcher Will Remillard before a 3-2 delivery to Snappers right fielder Tyler Marincov.
Although he had struggled to command the pitch in falling behind Marincov, 3-0, Godley was thinking inside fastball.
Remillard lobbied for the cutter and won, much like the Cougars, who snapped a three-game skid.
“A little bit more urgency in it, but you try and stay as calm as you can going into a situation like that,” Godley said. “Did all right.”
Godley notched his third save as the Cougars improved to 12-6. Beloit (7-11) held the hosts in check their first time through the order before Kane County scored on RBI doubles from right fielder Yasiel Balaguert and third baseman David Bote in the fourth.
Designated hitter Ben Carhart contributed two hits and an RBI, crediting hitting coach Tom Beyers’ advice to lay off starter Kyle Finnegan’s off-speed pitches low in the zone.
Coming off six shutout innings of one-hit, one-walk, six-strikeout ball in an April 15 win at Bowling Green, Cougars righty Paul Blackburn pitched effectively again despite lamenting poor stuff.
A supplemental first-round pick of the parent Cubs in 2012 – part of the first draft class under president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer – he scattered one run, five hits and a walk in 51⁄3 innings. Manager Mark Johnson called Blackburn’s effort “a grindy outing.” No argument from Blackburn.
“The days you don’t have your best stuff, it feels like you’re out there forever,” he said. “On the days you have your great stuff, it feels like it just flies by.”
Could have fooled his teammates, who laud Blackburn (2-0) for helping them stay alert.
“Most of these pitchers we have on this squad really get on the mound and work quickly. (Jen-Ho) Tseng works really quick. Paul works quick. (Tyler) Skulina,” Bote said. “It makes the game fun, for sure. It makes the game go quick. It gets you in a rhythm. You get in a rhythm on defense. You get in rhythm on offense. It just kind of flows.”
The beat went on even with Epstein sitting behind home plate in Section 110 for much of the game, unbeknownst to Johnson and most players.
“I try not to really look around that much when I’m on the mound, especially days I pitch,” Blackburn said. “Just kind of tunnel vision.”
COUGARS SHORT HOPS
Cougars (RHP Tyler Skulina, 1-0, 3.78 ERA) vs. Beloit (RHP Dylan Covey, 0-2, 5.71 ERA), 11 a.m. today, kccougars.com
Hey, aren't you ... ?
At first blush, Andrew Toledo figured the guy in the concourse who looked like Theo Epstein was too small to be the Cubs president of baseball operations.
Then Toledo took a chance, greeted Epstein as such, and shared a brief exchange. Then Toledo scrambled to his seat, grabbed his cellphone and returned to snap a picture with Epstein before Epstein left for Wrigley Field.
"That was almost a surreal moment," said Toledo, 37.
Epstein watched most of Tuesday's game from section 110, behind home plate, and apparently blended in among the crowd of 5,991 – composed largely of students on Ozzie's Reading Club Day. Security staff monitored him from afar.
Epstein, who also took a picture with a child, declined an interview request from the Chronicle as he and an associate departed.
"I've got to run back to Wrigley," Epstein said.
Toledo, a Chicago native now living in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is visiting family in the suburbs. His group plans to attend today's Cubs-Arizona Diamondbacks game saluting the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field's opening.
"Kind of planned the vacation around that, which makes meeting Theo even sweeter," Toledo said. "Because I'm sure he's going to be there [today] for the 100th anniversary."
– Kevin Druley, firstname.lastname@example.org