Cougars prevail in rough night on basepaths
GENEVA – There were some pinpoint deliveries Friday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Few of them, though, came from the pitchers.
On a night in which outfielders showcased their arms, the Cougars defeated South Bend, 7-2, at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for a series sweep.
The teams combined for six outfield assists, four by South Bend, as overly aggressive baserunning helped keep a game moving that otherwise was dictated by the offenses.
Cougars right fielder Jeffrey Baez had both of the Cougars' outfield assists, cutting down one runner at home and doubling another Silver Hawk off second base after making a lunging catch in the top of the third.
"It's very good, very important for the team," Baez said. "It helps the pitchers."
Cougars manager Mark Johnson praised the defensive display by Baez – one of the team's newcomers – but would have liked to see a little less drama from his own team on the basepaths.
"It's a good thing in a way," Johnson said. "It means you have runners on base and you've got a lot of action on the bases. … We ran into a couple outs tonight but we had a couple plays where we were aggressive in the right spots."
Starting pitcher Ben Wells, making his Cougars debut, needed all the help he could get. Wells was fortunate to allow only two runs in his four innings. He walked five and allowed five hits, but wiggled out of enough jams – thanks largely to Baez – to keep Kane County on course to sweep the three-game series.
"He limited the damage," Johnson said of Wells. "He put himself in a lot of binds. That was a very, very, very stressful four innings."
Cougars third baseman Jeimer Candelario continued his resurgent season after struggling in Daytona during April and May. Candelario went 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBIs.
Candelario has 24 RBIs in 30 games with the Cougars (67-36 overall, 22-11 second half).
"His confidence is there, and it's good to see," Johnson said. "Especially when he came down [from Daytona] and he was down in the dumps and didn't really have any confidence."
The Cougars' pitching staff allowed eight walks on the night but relievers Michael Wagner and Zak Hermans combined for five innings of three hit, shutout ball.
Right-hander Blake Perry struggled for South Bend (59-43, 19-14), allowing seven runs off 10 hits and three walks in four-plus innings.
Wells pitched in the Midwest League in 2012 with Peoria when the Chiefs were a Cubs affiliate. His career has been topsy-turvy since; he enjoyed a strong 2013 with Advanced-A Daytona, going 9-6 with a 3.28 ERA, but struggled mightily with Daytona this year, prompting a demotion all the way to Short-A Boise before being sent to Geneva this week.