The 2014 Midwest League champion Kane County Cougars pose with the MWL championship trophy. (Photo by Lianna Holub/MiLB.com)
As you probably know by now, the Kane County Cougars beat the Lake County Captains 7-2 last night to win the 2014 Midwest League championship. You can read my post about the championship-clinching game here and scroll back from there to read my other coverage from throughout the postseason.
Additionally, you can read the Cougars’ game story from Saturday’s win here. It includes three paragraphs that I believe summarize how dominant the team was from wire-to-wire this year:
The Cougars completed an unbeaten postseason, having swept first-round opponent Wisconsin, division finalist Cedar Rapids, and East Division champion Lake County. The team’s 7-0 playoff record, combined with a franchise-best 91-49 regular season, reflect a remarkable 2014 season record of 98-49 (.666 winning percentage). Kane County also set franchise records this season with a 13-game win streak, 2.85 team ERA and 54-17 regular-season home record.
The Cougars got out of the gates quickly, putting together an 18-7 record in the month of April. Kane County clinched the Western Division first-half championship in June with a 45-25 first-half record to punch their ticket for September’s postseason. Midwest League Manager of the Year Mark Johnson saw a majority of the team’s Opening Day roster move upwards through the Cubs farm system as 11 Cougars players were promoted to Class-A Advanced Daytona during the season. The Cougars lost multiple relievers out of the bullpen, as well as their top leadoff hitter in Jake Hannemann, to promotions by mid-summer. By August, the Cougars had lost 15 of the 25 players on their April Opening Day roster. Not including Major League rehabilitation appearances, more than 50 players were on the Cougars roster at one point or another in 2014. Despite a nearly continuous turnover of personnel, the Cougars actually outpaced their first-half efforts by winning the second-half division championship with a 46-24 mark.
Individual accolades came in bunches for the team throughout the season. At least one Cougars player received a Cubs monthly organizational award as Minor League Pitcher or Player of the Month for four straight months — Will Remillard in April, Paul Blackburn in May, Juan Paniagua in June, and Jen-Ho Tseng in July. In May, a pair of Cougars pitchers, Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris, combined for the 8th no-hitter in franchise history. A quartet of Cougars (Remillard, Blackburn, Jose Arias and Jordan Hankins) were selected to participate in the Midwest League All-Star Game in June. Five players (Jacob Rogers, Daury Torrez, Jeimer Candelario, Duane Underwood and Kyle Schwarber) were named Midwest League Player or Pitcher of the Week this season.
This year’s Cougars team will be a fun one to keep tabs on as its players move through the Chicago Cubs system (or whichever organization they end up in).
While this is Kane County’s second Midwest League championship, it is the Cougars’ first without an asterisk of sorts. The 2001 team was named MWL champions after playing only one game of the finals that year; the rest of the series was cancelled because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This year marked Lake County’s first trip back to the championship series since the Captains won the MWL title in 2010. They beat the Clinton LumberKings three games to two in that series; since then, three of the four championship series resulted in sweeps by the winning team (Kane County this year, Quad Cities in 2011 and 2013).
On a personal note, this completes my fourth season writing about the Midwest League on this website, and I want to thank everyone who supports my work by reading it. I do this mainly because of my love of the league and baseball in general, and will continue to write here during the offseason. I hope you’ll continue to check back here from time to time throughout the fall and winter months, but even if you don’t visit again until next spring, know that I appreciate all of you!