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CEDAR RAPIDS — Austin Diemer’s wide smile postgame said everything you needed to know.
He’s here with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, he’s playing regularly again, and, through two games, playing well again.
“Just relax and have fun playing baseball,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder said, after his team’s 6-4 come-from-behind win over Beloit before 4,244 fans Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “When I have fun, that’s when I feel I can perform the best ... It’s a game where if you’ve got a jersey on your back, you’re blessed. Just keep moving forward.”
Diemer had a lot of reasons not to feel that way. The outfielder showed well in 37 games last season with the Kernels and got the chance to break this spring training with high-Class A Fort Myers.
But he didn’t see a lot of game time, and his play suffered. He was hitting .167 with the Miracle when the parent Minnesota Twins sent him to extended spring training in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
He regrouped, got assigned back to the Midwest League to begin the second half and has gone 2-for-3 in his first two games. He homered to begin a four-run rally that moved the Kernels (38-33 overall) to 2-0.
“Get out here and have good at-bats, that’s all I can control,” Diemer said. “I spent some time (in extended), got some good work in with our Rookie-ball coaches. They wanted me to come here after the all-star break. You have to take it how it is. Go down there and get your work done. You can go there and pout about it, or go there and get better. I wanted to get better.”
“Is he going to get two hits every night? No,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “But he comes with energy, brings energy and is moving around really well ... He looks fresh, has had some big at-bats for us, done some nice things in center field. We kind of expect him to lead here us a little bit.”
Cedar Rapids didn’t do much of anything against Beloit starting pitcher Michael Murray, as he retired the first eight hitters he faced, including a string of six consecutive strikeouts. Brad Hartong finally reached on a hustle double with two outs in the third inning, then Sean Miller hit a tying two-run home run down the left-field line.
Beloit (32-39, 0-2) took the lead with a pair of runs against Kernels starter Eduardo Del Rosario in the sixth. After Diemer’s no-doubter home run to left, Rainis Silva and Chris Ibarra drew walks, J.J. Fernandez doubled to left-center to tie it, and Ibarra scored on a nifty back-door slide to beat a throw home on a Hartong infielder grounder.
Miller’s sacrifice fly to short right field scored Fernandez for the final margin. Williams Ramirez (1-1) and Anthony McIver combined for 3 1/3 shutout relief innings, with Ramirez picking up the win and McIver his third save.
The teams play again Saturday night at 6:35.
“(Murray) was dominating us early with all those strikeouts,” Mauer said. “Had the makings of a long night. But they hung in there, finally took a walk or two in the seventh. Battled a little bit, and Fernandez had a huge hit.”
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