GENEVA, Ill.- Despite owning the lead for basically the entire ball game, the Cougars pulled out a close victory over the Silver Hawks by a score of 5-3 in front of 10,163 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark Thursday evening. The Cougars (21-11, 66-36) guaranteed another series victory at home and can sweep South Bend (19-13, 59-42) on Friday.
Twice the Silver Hawks tied the ball game from the Cougars' one-run advantages, but South Bend never grabbed a lead. Jacob Rogers and Ben Carhart both put the Cougars on top in the first and third innings before South Bend evened things up twice.
The most productive inning for the Cougars came in the fifth when they scored two runs. Trey Martin led off the inning with a single. Martin moved to third on a stolen base and a throwing error by Silver Hawks' starter Johnny Omahen (4-5). The Cougars combined for three more straight singles as Carlos Penalver and Carhart drove in runs for a two-run lead.
After South Bend trimmed the lead down to one, Michael Heesch found some trouble in the eighth inning. The Cougar left-hander came in relief of Jen-Ho Tseng (6-0) but served up a leadoff double to Stryker Trahan. A passed ball moved Trahan to third, but Heesch retired the next two hitters. A pitching change brought James Pugliese to the mound, but Penalver's excellent play at short ended the inning to maintain the Cougars' 4-3 lead.
Rogers added an insurance run in the bottom of the frame with the team's only extra-base hit of the ninth. The Cougar first baseman took Nick Sarianides deep to dead center for a solo blast, his 11th home run of the year.
Pugliese retired the Silver Hawks in order in the ninth for his third save of the year.
The Cougars will go for the sweep over the Silver Hawks on Friday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark at 6:30 p.m. The Cougars will get their first look at right-hander Ben Wells against South Bend's Blake Perry (5-2, 3.87). For tickets call 630-232-8811 or visit kccougars.com.