Clinton, IA - The Clinton LumberKings (5-9, 35-47) saw a familiar foe hand them another close loss Friday night on the Fourth of July at Ashford University Field. The visiting Kane County Cougars (11-3, 56-35) improved to 8-2 overall against the LumberKings, handing Clinton their league-high 17th one-run loss of the season, 2-1.
For the first time in five games, Clinton failed to score first. Left-hander Blake Holovach (4-2) didn't make it easy against a Cougars lineup which featured 2014 No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber.
Holovach, who opened the season in the LumberKings' bullpen before a demotion to Extended Spring Training to be stretched out as a starter, was very effective, matching a career-high with seven innings pitched. He retired the first four batters he faced before allowing back-to-back one-out hits in the second. Jacob Rogers singled to left-center and scored from first on Cael Brockmeyer's RBI triple to right, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars extended their lead in the sixth with another run, thanks to Schwarber who doubled home Shawon Dunston, Jr. with two outs.
Kane County right-hander Juan Paniagua (5-3) matched Holovach pitch for pitch, delivering five shutout frames before trouble in the sixth. He sat down both Lonnie Kauppila and Martin Peguero on groundouts to short, but an Aaron Barbosa two-out walk set up two straight singles by Jack Reinheimer and Chantz Mack, the latter of which scored Barbosa. Reinheimer was thrown out at third base on Mack's single to center, ending Clinton's opportunity at more runs.
Holovach came back out for the seventh with his team trailing 2-1 and attempted to spark life into his offense by throwing his fifth 1-2-3 frame. But the offense couldn't come through in the clutch.
Kauppila and Peguero started an eighth inning rally with back-to-back singles, and Barbosa moved them both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Reinheimer - who had collected five RBIs in the final two games at Burlington - flied out to left-center, leaving the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
Right-handed reliever Rafael Pineda worked scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth, keeping Clinton within one. Mack opened the bottom of the ninth with his fourth base knock and swiped second after Justin Seager flied out. Jeff Zimmerman and Marcus Littlewood both had opportunities to tie the game, but Zimmerman came up just shy of a walk-off HR by flying out to the warning track in center, and Littlewood then struck out looking.
Michael Wagner picked up his second save for the Cougars, throwing three shutout innings for the third time this season against Clinton.
Mack collected four of Clinton's seven hits. The outfielder went 0-for-4 Thursday night at Burlington, snapping an eight-game hitting streak.
5,201 fans filled the seats to capacity, the second largest crowd in stadium history.
Clinton and Kane County continue their three-game series Saturday evening at Ashford University Field. The L'Kings will send right-hander Edwin Diaz (2-4, 3.61) to the mound against Cougars right-hander Duane Underwood (2-2, 2.84). First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM CT. The game can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.