GENEVA, Ill- The Cougars certainly know how to pick their spots for big innings, especially in the past few ballgames. Yasiel Balaguert only had one hit all day, but it was the biggest hit of the game as he brought home the tying and winning runs to cap off a 5-4 walk-off victory for the Cougars (16-6) over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (10-11).
Momentum came apparent to the Cougars as the visiting team committed its first error of the series on the very first play of the bottom of the ninth inning. Trailing 4-1 David Bote hit a groundball to Wisconsin third baseman Taylor Brennan. The Timber Rattler infielder threw the ball out of the first baseman's reach and Bote was aboard second base to begin the rally with nobody out. Daniel Lockhart drew a walk, allowing Jordan Hankins to come to the plate representing the tying run. Hankins singled home Bote to bring the Cougars within two and force Tyler Alexander off of the mound. Harvey Martin quickly found his task a step more difficult when catcher Rafael Neda tried to pick off Lockhart, who was at second base. Lockhart ventured off to third after the throw and would have been out if it weren't for a dropped ball by Brennan at third for his second error of the inning. The dropped toss sent both runners into scoring position and two batters later Trey Martin walked to load the bases. Jake Hannemann saw four straight pitches out of the strike zone for another free pass and a forced in run to cut the Timber Rattlers' lead 4-3. Carlos Penalver had a good at-bat until it ended with a strike out. Then Balaguert came up to the plate. On a 1-1 count the Cougar right fielder dropped a base hit into left field, fast enough to not be caught, but slow enough to score two runs. Hankins and Martin touched home on the hit to conclude a 5-4 Cougars' comeback.
Wisconsin quickly found out Duane Underwood as they plated four runs through the first three innings. Neda scored the first two runs on a single in the second inning, while Brennan doubled the advantage with a two-run base hit in the third. With a 4-0 lead, Taylor Williams cruised through six innings shutting out the Cougars and holding them to just one hit. The Timber Rattlers starter also fanned six.
With a different arm on the mound in Alexander, the Cougars finally got on the board. Bote and Lockhart connected on back-to back one-out singles against the Wisconsin lefty, before Brockmeyer sent home Bote with a single. Brockmeyer, who just was activated off the disabled list on Friday, earned his first hit and RBI of the 2014 season.
Nathan Dorris (2-1) picked up the win with a scoreless ninth inning. Martin (1-1) suffered the loss along with his second blown save of the season. Gerardo Concepcion pitched in with four and one-third scoreless innings of relief.
The series between the Cougars and the Timber Rattlers will conclude on Sunday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Jen-Ho Tseng (1-0, 2.93) will take the mound for the Cougars against Wisconsin's Barrett Astin (3-1, 1.23). For tickets call 630-232-8811 or log on to kccougars.com.