GENEVA – On a night with a chance to clinch a first-half playoff berth in the Midwest League, the Kane County Cougars showed why they are 20 games over .500.
The Cougars took advantage of five Clinton errors and blew open a close game with seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings to earn a 12-5 victory.
With Burlington losing 4-0 to Quad Cities, the win ensured the Cougars a playoff berth. Kane County (41-20) is now 21 games over .500 with the win.
After Corey Simpson hit the second of two home runs on the night – a solo blast off Kane County reliever Zak Hermans – that tied the game at 5 in the sixth, the Cougars exploded for three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh to blow the game open.
Carlos Penalver singled to lead off the sixth, stole second and advanced to third on Shawon Dunston Jr.’s sharp single to right. After Dunston stole second, Trey Martin’s sacrifice fly scored Penalver in what turned out to be the winning run to give the Cougars a 6-5 lead. Dunston then scored on a wild-pitch to make it 7-5 before Jordan Hankins drove in Jacob Hannemann (walk) to push the lead to 8-5.
In the seventh, Kane County cashed in on three Clinton errors to score four runs to nearly put the game out of reach at 12-5. Hankins, who was recently named a Midwest League All-Star, singled home another run in the seventh that was part of a 5 for 5 night with 2 RBI. Martin and Hannemann also had RBI’s in the inning.
Clinton threatened in the ninth inning of Kane County reliever Michael Heesch. The LumberKings loaded the bases but Heesch struck out Austin Wilson for the first out before Daniel Lockhart and Penalver turned in a highlight-reel double-play to end the game.
Lockhart dove up the middle to snag a Jack Rheinheimer ground-ball, glove-flipped the ball to Penalver at second who wheeled and threw to first to complete the double-play for the final out to end the game.
The Cougars trailed early as starter Daury Torrez gave up a long home run to Clinton left-fielder Corey Simpson. After Justin Seager and Joe DeCarlo singled, Simpson launched a 2-1 inside fastball high over the leftfield wall that cleared the scoreboard to give the LumberKings a 3-0 lead.
Kane County responded with a run in the third on a Lockhart infield groundout that scored Martin, who reached via an error that made it 4-1.
The Cougars took the lead in the fourth as Hankins doubled to lead off the frame and came around to score after Rheinheimer threw wide of first on a Yasiel Balaguert grounder. Kane County added three more runs on an error, and a Martin infield groundout that gave the Cougars a 5-4 lead.
Hermans earned the win with three innings of one-run ball in relief of Torrez. Torrez went five innings, permitting nine hits and four runs – three on Simpson’s booming homer – while striking out five to get a no-decision.
Along with the big night for Hankins, Lockhart (two hits), Penalver (three hits) and Dunston (two hits) all had multihit nights for the Cougars. Martin added an RBI single, two runs scored and three RBIs on the night.