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Sports

Cedar Rapids ousts Cougars from Midwest League playoffs

Sam McWilliams, for all his success this season, was done in by one bad inning in his last start.

It came at the wrong time for the Cougars.

Cedar Rapids tagged McWilliams for seven straight hits to start the fourth inning of the Cougars' Midwest League playoff game on Sept. 7 in Geneva. Cedar Rapids scored six runs in the inning, and went on to a 7-3 and a sweep of the best-of-three series.

McWilliams was the Cougars' ace this season, their most consistent and durable pitcher. The 22-year-old right-hander originally drafted by the Phillies in 2014, then traded to the Diamondbacks last winter pitched was 11-6 season with a 2.84 earned run average over 25 starts during the regular season.

McWilliams was in top form early in the playoff game, retiring the first nine batters he faced with four strikeouts. He took a 2-0 lead to the fourth, but it quickly unraveled. The big blow came off the bat of Cedar Rapids' Trey Cabbage, a three-run homer. McWilliams was knocked out without retiring a batter in the fourth.

The Cougars struck first in the game, in the second inning. A two-out, two-run single by Adam Walton scored Jose Herrera and Yan Sanchez. Sanchez scored on an error in the seventh to make it 6-3, but the Cougars left the bases loaded.

Despite the late efforts from Ramon Hernandez, the Cougars dropped the series 6-5 on Sept. 6 in Cedar Rapids.

Down 5-3 into the seventh inning, Anfernee Grier drew a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Ramon Hernandez sent a two-run homer over the left field wall to tie the contest at five.
 
Connor Grey (0-1), coming off a perfect game on Sept. 1, was pulled from the bullpen in the third in an emergency setting and kept the Cougars within range for five innings. In the bottom of the eighth Cedar Rapids retook the lead against Grey as Lewin Diaz started the frame with his third double of the game. After a wild pitch allowed Diaz to reach third base, Jimmy Kerrigan rolled an RBI single through the right side of the infield to put Cedar Rapids ahead 6-5.

The series marked the 16th playoff appearance in the 27-year history of the Cougars organization. Their last championship came in 2014.

This season's team, managed by Butch Hobson, went 72-65 during the regular season. The Cougars clinched the Western Division championship of the Midwest League. McWilliams' 2.84 ERA was good for second in the league, and he led the Cougars with 11 wins and 98 strikeouts.

Perhaps the highlight of the season, though, came in its last week.

Grey threw the first perfect game in the history of the Cougars organization, beating Clinton 5-0. It was the first perfect game in the Midwest League since 2004, and the first-ever by a Diamondbacks prospect.

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