GENEVA – A between-innings trivia question revealed that the last time the Cougars perched 30 games above .500 before Saturday was 2004.
Managing five hits in a 7-0 loss to Beloit brought the club to the less ripe figure of 29 games over. Players know that hardly means their success is history.
"We've got a doubleheader [Sunday], and I think that [Sunday], we're going to work as a team, you know," third baseman Jeimer Candelario said. "When we work as a team, everything is going good."
It wasn't as if the Cougars – still the Midwest League's best club at 15-6 in the second half and 60-31 overall – lost that camaraderie against Beloit (5-16, 36-55).
Snappers left-hander Matt Stalcup's resiliency added up, though, as did his teammates' persistence. Beloit scored five runs in the final three innings, including twice with two outs in the ninth.
Kane County loaded the bases with two outs in its own half of the ninth but was unable to score. It had Stalcup on the ropes earlier in the game, but he consistently pitched out of jams.
Two weeks after the Cougars reached him for six runs, eight hits and two homers in 4 2/3 innings, Stalcup recovered admirably, scattering four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.
"He established in with his fastball, and we had a couple chances, but he made some good pitches when he needed to and their defense played a good game," Cougars manager Mark Johnson said.
Candelario contributed one of the Cougars' top efforts in defeat, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.
An undrafted free agent of the parent Cubs who's still just 20, Candelario extended his hitting streak to six games as he continues to work on solidifying his offensive game. The Cougars' third baseman for much of last season, Candelario opened 2014 with Advanced-A Daytona but was transferred to Class-A Kane County last month after batting .193 in 62 games.
"You've just got to work hard every day. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen," Candelario said. "You've just got to work hard and … every day be the best player you can."
Catcher Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs' first-round draft pick last month, singled twice. First baseman Jacob Rogers had the other hit, singling to lead off the ninth.
Righty Tyler Skulina took the loss, allowing two runs and five hits in five innings. Gerardo Concepcion and Jose Arias combined to allow five runs – four earned – and seven hits in four innings of relief.
Ominous skies threatened overhead for much of the night, but the game was played without interruption. Rain or not, the Cougars and Snappers already knew they faced a doubleheader Sunday, the most grueling and compact part of a five-game, four-day series.
"That's going to tax any team, especially a pitching staff," said Snappers pitching coach Craig Lefferts, a former major league left-hander who the Cubs drafted in 1980. "We'll have to just deal with it and give it our best shot."
Better to play two, seven-inning games just a few weeks removed from the All-Star break than, say, a month from now.
"Maybe if it was mid-August, I would have a different answer, but right now the guys seem to be pretty good," Johnson said.
To that end, Johnson dismissed Saturday's loss as a casualty of baseball's law of averages. The Cougars still are 36-11 at home and haven't lost a series since the Snappers earned a three-game sweep from June 13 to 15.
"It's baseball. You have games like this. It happens. It's going to happen. It's going to happen again," Johnson said. "And these guys are consistent and it's just one of those days."