Thursday’s finale of the four-game series between the Kane County Cougars and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers was a classic pitchers’ duel that saw both starters deliver outstanding performances. It was a great game to watch and, unfortunately, it had to come to an end. Even more unfortunate for the Timber Rattlers, they were not the ones coming out on top as they fell 2-1 in 11 innings.
Through the first five innings Kane County starter Wei-Chieh Huang and Wisconsin hurler Zach Hirsh kept the game scoreless. Huang was especially effective. He gave up a single with two outs in the first, then retired the next 20 batters he faced. His string finally came to an end in the eighth when he gave up a base hit to Jose Pena with one out.
Meanwhile Hirsh was pitching nearly as well. The Cougars were able to get runners on base in each of the first two innings, but then the Timber Rattlers starter got on a roll of his own. From the last out of the second until the end of the fifth, Hirsh retired 10 in a row to keep the score tied at zero.
In the bottom of the sixth Kane County finally got on the board. Victor Reyes led off with a double. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third, and Ryan Gebhardt followed with a ground out that brought Reyes home. That gave the Cougars the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the eighth Wisconsin tied the score against Huang. Pena singled with one out, moved to second on a balk, and reached third on a wild pitch. Alan Sharkey walked and Greg McCall followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the score.
From there it was time for the bullpens to deliver. Zac Curtis, Cody Geyer and Nick Baker each delivered scoreless innings for the Kane County Cougars. Scott Lieser pitched two perfect innings for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, striking out two.
In the bottom of the 11th Gian Rizzo took to the mound for Wisconsin. Cody Regis pinch hit and singled to open the inning. Reyes laid down a perfect sacrifice to move Regis to third, and Ildemaro Vargas was intentionally walked to put runners at first and second with one out. Michael Perez pinch hit, and took a Rizzo offering and ripped it into left field to score Regis with the game winner.
Baker (4-1) earned the win for Kane County. Rizzo (0-1) took the loss.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers recorded just three hits, with Elvis Rubio getting two of them. Kane County got just six hits, with no player recording more than one.
The Kane County Cougars will welcome Peoria to town tomorrow. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers move onto Beloit. Kodi Medeiros (2-2, 4.97) gets the start for Wisconsin against Joey Wagman (2-1, 3.12)
By Robert Pannier