GENEVA, IL - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers need a three-game sweep and a little help from the Cedar Rapids Kernels to get into the Midwest League Playoffs before the season ends on Labor Day. The Rattlers did their part with a 2-1 victory over the Kane County Cougars on Saturday in game one of the three-game series at Northwestern Medicine Field.
Kane County (71-65 overall, 36-31 second half) took the lead in the bottom of the third inning. A single and a walk put two runners on with no outs. Yan Sanchez singled to right to drive in the run to give the Cougars the 1-0 lead.
Wisconsin (67-70, 36-32) answered with two runs in the top of the fourth to go in front of Kane County. Darren Seferina started the rally with a ground-rule double. Gabriel García dropped a bunt for a single to put runners at the corners. Chad McClanahan tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right to score Seferina. García wound up at second after the throw home was wild.
Trever Morrison gave the Rattlers the lead with a two-out single to right to score García.
Wisconsin flashed some leather in the bottom of the fourth inning to maintain the lead. Jose Herrera started the inning with a double. Tra Holmes was next and he bunted right at García, who was charging from his position at first base. García picked the ball clean and first to Eddie Silva at third to catch Herrera.
Then, Holmes was running on a 1-2 pitch and Jose Caballero sent a hard grounder to Silva at third. Silva made a tough pick and a throw to first for the out. Holmes never stopped going around second and tried to take third, but García didn't get caught napping. García fired another strike back across the diamond to get Holmes by at least five feet for the inning-ending double play.
Scott Sunitsch scattered seven hits and worked around three walks over five innings as he allowed one run before turning the 2-1 lead over to the bullpen heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Payton Henry doubled in the top of the seventh inning to start the frame, but he was left stranded as the Rattlers could not add to their lead. The bullpen made sure that missed opportunity did not hurt them.
Gabe Friese took over for Sunitsch and worked 2-2/3 innings without allowing a run. He left the game with a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the eighth in favor of Robbie Hitt, who got the final out of the eighth.
Hitt retired the first two batters he faced in ninth before allowing an infield single to Jancarlos Cintron. Hitt closed out the game for his ninth save of the season by getting Tim Susnara to pop out to short.
In the second half, Western Division Wild Card race, the Cedar Rapids Kernels defeated the Beloit Snappers 5-2 at Beloit. The results on Saturday put the standings with Kane County at 36-31, the Rattlers are a half-game back at 36-32, and Beloit is two games behind the Cougars at 35-32. There are two games remaining in the regular season.
If the Timber Rattlers win the final two games of the series at Kane County, they will be in the playoffs.
Game two of the series is Sunday night. Wilfred Salaman (0-2, 7.13) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Mack Lemieux (4-10, 4.31) is set to start for the Cougars. Game time is 6:30pm.
The radio broadcast is on AM1280, WNAM starting with the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Pregame Show at 6:10pm. The broadcast is also available on the Tune In and IHeart Radio apps. Subscribers to MiLB.tv can watch the game over the internet.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.