GENEVA – The Kane County Cougars ended their record-setting regular season with a 6-5 extra-innings loss to the Peoria Chiefs.
The Cougars jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Peoria grinded its way back into the game.
The Chiefs (72-67) scored the game-winning run in the top of the 12th on a wild pitch by Jasvir Rakkar that scored Vaughn Bryan. The win was credited to Chiefs relief pitcher Kyle Helisek.
The Cougars (91-49) set a franchise record for most wins in a year. Manager Mark Johnson was impressed that his team showed no quit throughout the season.
“It is just been an absolute incredible ride,” Johnson said, “These players and the staff ... they have brought it every day.”
The Cougars used six pitchers in the loss with starter Paul Blackburn (9-4, 3.23 ERA) only throwing two innings in an attempt to rest him for the playoffs. He allowed one hit and walked one.
Jeimer Candelario, Yasiel Balaguert and Cael Brockmeyer all had RBIs in the first inning.
The Chiefs slowly worked their way back in the game with RBIs in the third inning by Justin Ringo and a RBI double in the fifth by Luis Perez. The Cougars answered in the fifth with an RBI sacrifice fly by Candelario, who went 0 for 3 with two RBIs and two walks.
Cougars reliever Michael Wagner surrendered two runs in the seventh, one via home run from Richy Pedroza and another by a Perez sacrifice fly to tie the score at 4.
The Chiefs and Cougars traded runs in the eighth inning before Rakkar surrendered the game-winning run in the 12th.
Despite the loss, the Cougars have had a memorable regular season.
“It (has) definitely been fun winning all these games,” center fielder Trey Martin said. “It has been cool to see that we can still play hard and win games even with people coming in and out [of the line-up],” Martin said.
The Cougars will face the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on the road Wednesday to start the first round of the playoffs.
“I feel confident as a team, we’re playing well together and nothing is going to change. We’re going to play hard and have fun,” Martin said.