Cougars Notebook: Kane County pitchers making a pitch for top honors

The Cougars’ starting pitching has been nothing short of remarkable this season, and the rotation continues to rack up honors. For the second time, a Cougars starter was named the Cubs organizational Pitcher of the Month when Juan Paniagua took home the honors for June. For the second straight week, a Cougars starter was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week. Duane Underwood took last week’s honor, with Daury Torrez winning the week prior. Paul Blackburn was a Midwest League All-Star and the Cubs’ organizational Pitcher of the Month in May. Tyler Skulina threw a no-hitter in May and Jen-Ho Tseng is 3-0 this season. All six of the pitchers had an ERA under 3.00 going into Wednesday’s game. “It’s unbelievable,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “It’s not like it’s a bunch of older guys. It’s some younger guys. They all feed off each other and they all come to the field every day and the way they go about their work. They’re true professionals.” Paniagua shook off a slow start to the season to go 3-0 with an 0.89 ERA in June, striking out 26 and walking only five in 201/3 innings. “Juan has done an excellent job this year really changing his whole presence on the mound in terms of his tempo, being quick to the plate,” Johnson said. “The light’s finally come on.” Underwood, an outfielder in high school is still gaining experience. He leads the starting staff with a 2.54 ERA. He won his last two starts, allowing only one earned run and striking out 11 in 11 innings. “I would say (winning the MWL honor) is validation and the drive to keep going harder,” Underwood said. “We’re trying to get to ‘The Show.’ It’s a nice honor to have. It just says how much more I have to keep working. I’m just progressing and I have to keep going.”

Hannemann learns lesson

Cougars leadoff man Jake Hannemann missed five games this week after being suspended for an incident with an umpire in Beloit in June. Johnson was suspended for three games as well. Hannemann’s suspension ended Wednesday. “He understood what happened,” Johnson said. “It was a very intense moment in the game. His emotions got the best of him. I had to back him up. That’s part of baseball. That’s something you learn from.”

Penalver slumping

The man who has hit behind Hannemann much of the season, shortstop Carlos Penalver, is in a deep slump. In his last 10 games, Penalver is 4-for-43. Since the All-Star break, Penalver is hitting only .109 (7-for-64). His season average is down to .219 as a result. “He’s just trying too hard,” Johnson said. “He’s trying to get three hits with one swing. Sometimes through tough times, you line out hard a couple times, you start thinking too much and it can snowball. It’s just one of those things. He’ll get out of it. He’s grinding through it.”

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