Kane County (53-57 overall, 25-16 second half) broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. Rattlers starting pitcher Maverick Lasker had allowed one hit and faced the minimum through the first five innings. But, a leadoff walk and a single put runners at first and third with no outs in the sixth.
Espinal was at the plate to bunt the runners over, but a wild pitch by Lasker put both Cougars on base in scoring position. Espinal fought off a tough 1-2 pitch from Lasker later in the at bat to bloop in a two-run single for a 2-0 Kane County lead.
The Rattlers (54-57, 16-25) came back with a run in the top of the seventh. Mike Brownstein drew a leadoff walk, but was forced out at second on a TJ Mittelstaedt grounder. Mittelstaedt beat the throw to first to keep the Cougars from turning two.
Then, Mittelstaedt got a good read on a pitch in the dirt with Jason Rogers at the plate. The throw to second was wild and Mittelstaedt reached third base. Rogers drove in Mittelstaedt with a grounder to short.
Kane County put three insurance runs on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning. Espinal reached on a bunt single with one out. Angel Franco tripled to send Espinal home. Later in the inning, Brian Fletcher and Jake Kuebler had back-to-back RBI singles with two outs to give the Cougars a 5-1 lead.
Wisconsin tried to rally in the top of the ninth against Kane County closer Chas Byrne. Brownstein reached on an infield single and Mittelstaedt drew a walk to put two on with no outs. Rogers sent a deep drive to left-center that sounded great off the bat. But, the ball did not carry and centerfielder Brett Eibner ran the ball down just short of the track.
Nick Ramirez knocked in Brownstein with a single to get the Rattlers to within 5-2. But, Byrne got the next batter to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Game two of the series is Sunday afternoon at Elfstrom Stadium. Jimmy Nelson (6-7, 4.12) is the scheduled starter for the Timber Rattlers. Jason Adam (5-6, 4.68) is set to start for the Cougars. Game time is 1:00pm. Tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or timberrattlers.com starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 12:40pm.
WP: Antonio Cruz (3-6)
LP: Maverick Lasker (1-5)