The Kane County Cougars jumped out to a 5-2 lead through seven innings, and looked like they had their game against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the bag. However the Appleton-based team has no quit in them, scoring five runs in the final two frames, but still falling short in the 8-7 loss.
Wisconsin took the lead in the top of the first against Kane County starter Markus Solbach. Francisco Castillo led off the game with a single and was moved to second on a bunt. A ground out moved Castillo to third and, after a wild pitch, Sthervin Matos singled to score Castillo and give the visitors the early lead.
Cy Sneed kept the Cougars off the scoreboard in bottom of the first, but they tied the score against the righty in the bottom half of the second inning. Colin Bray began the inning with a line drive to the wall in right field that he legged into a triple. Chuck Taylor followed with a fly ball to center field that was deep enough to score Bray to tie the score.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers got the run right back in their next at-bats. With one out, Elvis Rubio doubled to left field and Dustin DeMuth followed with a single that scored Rubio to make it 2-1.
Trailing by one heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Kane County Cougars took the lead for the first time in the game. Back-to-back singles by Marty Herum and Bray put two on, with Herum scoring on a throwing error, while Bray moved to third. A ground ball out by Taylor brought Bray home and the Cougars led 3-2.
In the bottom of the fifth the home team extended their lead. Victor Reyes began with a single, and came all the way around to score on a triple by Cody Regis. Regis’ hit sailed over the head of Brandon Diaz to bring Reyes home and make it 4-2.
Two innings later Kane County added an insurance run. Joe Munoz doubled to start the inning. That would be the last hitter Cy Sneed would face as Tyler Linehan took over. He was greeted by a Reyes single that scored Munoz to make it 5-2.
The lead looked like a solid one, but no lead was safe on this day, as the eighth inning turned out to be one for the ages. With Steve Hathaway in for Kane County, Tucker Neuhaus singled and moved to third on a double by Jose Pena. Alan Sharkey singled to score Neuhaus and move Pena to third. A ground out kept Pena in place, but Sharkey moved to second.
Two batters later Luis Ramirez relieved for Hathaway and allowed the next three hitters to reach base. Brandon Diaz beat out an infield single to score Pena, and Rubio grounded a double into the gap in left field bringing both runners home. That gave that Wisconsin Timber Rattlers a one-run lead, 6-5.
The Kane County Cougars responded in their half of the eighth. With one out, Taylor, Michael Perez and Munoz each singled, with Munoz hit plating Taylor to tie the game. Reyes was intentionally walked, and Regis was hit by a pitch to bring home Perez and give the Cougars the lead again.
With the bases loaded Zach Cooper came in to relieve for Lineham and was called for a balk right off. That scored Munoz with what would be the deciding run.
Down 8-6, the Timber Rattlers looked to tie the score against Kane County closer Zac Curtis. Neuhas singled to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Sharkey followed by lining a single into right field to score Neuhaus. With the tying run on first, Greg McCall flew out, but Castillo singled to move Munoz 180-feet from tying the game. Diaz looked to tie the game or put his team ahead, but Curtis won the battle, striking out the Wisconsin center fielder to end the contest.
Ramirez (1-0) earned the win while Curtis recorded his 13th save of the season, tops in the Midwest League. Linehan (1-1) took the loss.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers had 17-hits. DeMuth was 3-3 with an RBI, and Neuhaus was 3-5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Sharkey also had a 3-5 evening, scoring a run and plating two others.
These two teams close out their series tomorrow. Zach Hirsh (2-3, 2.98) goes for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He will be opposed by Wei-Chieh Huang (3-0, 0.76)
By Robert Pannier