The 2014 Midwest League Champions received another trophy Tuesday when the Kane County Cougars were awarded the MiLBY for the Best Team of the Year. The Cubs Low-A affiliate received both the staff and fan vote for top team of 2014.
Low-A Kane County, led by manager Mark Johnson, won 91 games during the regular season and was a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs on the way to the Midwest League Crown. Kane County won 13 straight games at the end of the regular season and finished the year with a 98-49 record.
Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris combined on a no-hitter on May 17 and Cael Brockmeyer hit for the cycle on June 29.
After the season, the Cubs front office did not renew the Player Development Contract with Kane County. Beginning in 2015, the Cubs Class Low-A affiliate will call South Bend home at Four Winds Field as the South Bend Cubs.
The strength of the 2014 Kane County Cougars was the pitching staff led by Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jen-Ho Tseng. Duane Underwood had a breakout season and demonstrated the stuff that made the 20-year old (July 20) a second round pick in 2012. Paul Blackburn and Daury Torrez stood out on the best pitching staff in the league. And Torrez was on the mound in Ohio the night the Cougars won the title.
Many of the top young players in the Cubs system played at Kane County at some point during the 2014 season. And the list includes: Kyle Schwarber, Shawon Dunston Jr., Mark Zagunis, Jacob Hannemann, Trey Martin, Jeffrey Baez, Chesny Young, Jeimer Candelario, Danny Lockhart, Carlos Penalver and Jacob Rogers, just to name a few.
Offensively, Kane County finished second in the league in batting average (.261), tied for fifth in OPS (.703), fourth in runs scored (647) and 11th in home runs (74).
Mark Johnson deserves a lot of credit for the year the Cougars had in 2014. The consistent roster turnover did not affect the team on the field and the wins kept piling up.
“It was a team full of aptitude and a team willing to work,” Mark Johnson told MiLB.com. “Everybody just meshed and everybody had each other’s backs from the first pitch to the last pitch. The results kind of speak for themselves. For whatever reason, they did it, they bought in and it shows how powerful that it is, to not worry about personal goals so much.”
“You can’t put a word on it,” Johnson said. “It’s just one of those teams and one of those summers that everything clicked, everything went right. It was just a perfect summer as far as winning ballgames. Unbelievably resilient, hard-working, very consistent, routine-based-team. They just came to work every single day and they weren’t going to get beat. They had the confidence and they knew they had each other’s backs.”
The Cubs system won three 2014 MiLBY’s and finished second on a fourth: Kris Bryant – Best Offensive Player, Chicago Cubs – Best Farm System, Kane County Cougars – Best Team and Chris Rusin (second) – Game of the Year.