Clinton, IA - The Clinton LumberKings (27-25) picked up their fifth shutout of the season with a 5-0 victory over the division leading Kane County Cougars (36-18). After Clinton allowed 21 runs to Kane County over the first four games of the season series, Kane County did just about everything but push a man across the plate against the right-handed combination of Jose Flores (2-0) and Rafael Pineda (SV, 3). The Cougars pounded out nine hits, but grounded into three double plays and walked only once.
Kane County scored first in the series opener on Wednesday, and had multiple opportunities to do so again Thursday night. After back-to-back singles by Carlos Penalver and Ben Carhart in the first, cleanup hitter Yasiel Balaguert hit into an inning ending double play.
Flores pitched himself into another jam in the second, as Kane County hit three singles in a span of four batters. But once again, Flores induced a ground ball, as Trey Martin gave the LumberKings infield another easy inning ending double play.
Still scoreless after two innings, Kane County's leadoff hitter, Jacob Hannemanmn, reached on an error by LumberKings first baseman Jeff Zimmerman to begin the frame. Flores then saw Penalver hit into a double play, the third in three innings induced by the righty.
The game stayed scoreless until Cougars starter Tyler Skulina (3-2) loaded the bases in the LumberKings fifth. Skulina grazed Joe DeCarlo with a fastball to open the inning before he retired Chantz Mack and Justin Seager. With two outs, Christian Carmichael singled to left and Ian Miller walked on a 3-2 pitch that loaded the bases. With Zach Shank at the plate, and down in the count 0-2, Skulina threw a pitch in the dirt that Cougars catcher Cael Brockmeyer let roll to the backstop as DeCarlo scored the first run of the game.
Clinton scored another single run in the sixth. After a leadoff walk to Jack Reinheimer, Michael Heesch replaced Skulina out of the bullpen. Reinheimer stole second base on the first pitch from Heesch to Zimmerman, and then scored on Zimmerman's single to center field. A 2-0 lead proved to be plenty for Flores, as he set a new season high with six shutout innings in route to his second win of the season. He allowed five hits over the first two innings, but only one more over his final four frames. The righty walked only one and struck out four. Rafael Pineda came on for Flores to begin the seventh, and he continued to shut down Kane County.
The LumberKings put the game out of reach with a three run seventh inning off of Heesch and Jose Arias. Shank plated Miller and Seager with a two-RBI double and scored on a wild pitch by Arias. Pineda pitched the final three innings in scoreless fashion, his second consecutive three-inning shutout performance as he picked up his third save of 2014.
A night after the LumberKings went 0-9 with men in scoring position and left 12 men on base, Clinton went 2-9 with RISP and left only seven. Shank's double in the seventh extended his hit streak to five games, two shy of his season high. The quality start for Flores was his first of the season, the ninth of the year for Clinton pitching, and third in five games.
The LumberKings and Cougars are set to wrap up the series Friday night at Ashford University Field in Clinton. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30. Two more righties are set to conclude the series, as Lars Huijer (2-3, 3.83) and Daury Torrez (4-3, 3.51) toe the rubber in the finale. Torrez picked up the loss in the series finale between these clubs last week, though he allowed only one earned run over six innings. The broadcast of Friday's game can be heard on 100.3 FM WCCI, WCCIRadio.com, and LumberKings.com.