Baseball: Cougars continue feel-good Fridays with win

Cougars 7, South Bend 2

Recap: Jeimer Candelario and Shawon Dunston Jr. each pounded out three hits and the bullpen threw five scoreless innings behind starter Ben Wells, who was making his Cougars debut. The Cougars scored three runs in the third and fifth innings.

Cougars record: 67-36 overall, 22-11 second half

Up next: West Michigan (Austin Kubitza 8-1) at Kane County (Paul Blackburn 8-3), 6:30 p.m. Saturday, WBIG-AM (1280), (Kane County Cougars)

The Cougars love playing at home, but especially on Fridays.

Their 7-2 win over South Bend Friday, completing a three-game sweep of the Silver Hawks, made them 9-0 at home on Fridays, though it’s not like their record on every other day of the week at home is poor. The Cougars improved to 41-12 at home, 67-36 overall and 22-11 in the second half with the win.

“It’s great playing at home,” left fielder Shawon Dunston Jr. said. “For some reason, we like winning at home. I don’t know, I guess home crowd, you get to sleep a little better. Hopefully on the road we can do the same thing.”

For the third straight game since leadoff man Jake Hannemann was promoted to high-Class A Daytona, Dunston was in the middle of things all night again Friday in the leadoff spot. He went 3-for-4 to improve to 6-for-10 since taking over the leadoff spot. He also stole his 14th base.

In a three-run third inning that gave the Cougars the lead for good, Dunston doubled in Trey Martin and scored on Jeimer Candelario’s two-run single as they opened a 4-1 lead.

In the fifth, Candelario struck again in another three-run Cougars inning. This time it was a two-run double. He now has 12 doubles and 24 RBI in 30 games since being demoted from Daytona.

“Big game from Candy, some big hits right there,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said.

The offense helped starter Ben Wells, who was making his Cougars debut. He was shaky in four innings of work, allowing five hits and walking five, but he allowed only two runs. The bullpen finished the game with five scoreless innings to pick him up.

“He limited the damage,” Johnson said. “He put himself in a lot of binds. It was a very stressful outing. That’s why he’s here, to regroup and get that confidence back and make some minor little adjustments and just start pounding the zone with that unbelievable sinker that he possessed. It’s a big league sinker. He just has to get back to the basics.”

It was a wild game on the bases, as there were six combined outfield assists. Four went against the Cougars, while Cougars right fielder Jeffrey Baez gunned down a pair of base runners.

“It’s a good thing in a way, because you know you have a lot of guys on base and a lot of action,” Johnson said. “We ran into a couple outs tonight, but we had a couple plays where we were aggressive in the right spot. That’s one of (Baez’s) attributes, his arm. He’s got a strong arm, and it’s accurate.”

Blake Perry (5-3) absorbed the loss for South Bend (59-43, 19-14). Michael Wagner (2-2) picked up the win in relief for the Cougars, with Zak Hermans wrapping things up.

Candelario had three hits with Martin contributing two from the number nine slot in the order.

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Cougars 7, South Bend 2

Recap: Jeimer Candelario and Shawon Dunston Jr. each pounded out three hits and the bullpen threw five scoreless innings behind starter Ben Wells, who was making his Cougars debut. The Cougars scored three runs in the third and fifth innings.

Cougars record: 67-36 overall, 22-11 second half

Up next: West Michigan (Austin Kubitza 8-1) at Kane County (Paul Blackburn 8-3), 6:30 p.m. Saturday, WBIG-AM (1280), (Kane County Cougars)

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