Audio: Kleen comes through in 11th
Steve Kleen's stats
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Steve Kleen's RBI single in the 11th inning lifted Kane County over visiting West Michigan, 4-3, on Tuesday in the opener of the best-of-5 Midwest League Finals.
Raul Padron led off the 11th with a double, and Jose Pineda and Isaac Omura drew consecutive one-out walks to load the bases. With the infield drawn in, Kleen came through with his first hit in five at-bats, smacking a single to center field.
The 23-year-old first baseman's single, which landed on the warning track, sent the Cougars into a frenzy. "That's the best feeling in the whole world, having all the guys rush out there," Kleen said.
"I was going to make sure I drew the ball into the outfieldI got the hit with two strikes. It was a 2-2 fastball down the middle.
"It's crucial to win Game 1," he added. "We're tough at home. We play here again tomorrow and I think we have a good chance."
The Cougars trailed, 1-0, before putting up three runs in the seventh. Padron delivered an RBI single, and Pineda belted a two-run homer off reliever Matt Rusch.
Kane County starter Ben Jukich yielded two runs on three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in eight innings. The 23-year-old left-hander gave up a single to William Rhymes in the second before retiring 11 in row. Mark Haske ended the run when he reached on an error by third baseman Jeffrey Baisley, the 2006 Midwest League Player of the Year.
Rob Semerano (1-0) got the final two outs in the 11th to pick up the win.
The Whitecaps jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second on Pedro Cotto's RBI groundout. Rhymes belted a solo homer in the eighth, and Matthew Joyce lifted a sacrifice fly in the ninth to forge a 3-3 tie.
"We had a temporary lapse, but we got right back up," Kleen said.
Rhymes had three of West Michigan's five hits.
Whitecaps starter Burke Badenhop, who went 14-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 27 starts this season, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 frames.
Josh Kauten (0-1) took the loss after surrendering a run on two hits and two walks while retiring one batter in the 11th.
Kane County will host Game 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Marc Jimenez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.