INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The best thing about the position the Cedar Rapids Kernels are in right now is they don’t have to do any scoreboard watching. None.
Just keep taking care of your own business, boys, which they did Monday night with a 4-1 win over Quad Cities before 1,478 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Brady Anderson was strong again on the mound, and the Kernels drew eight walks to claim the first game of this four-game series. Add six hits in there, and it’s a wonder they only scored four times.
“It feels good. You’re not going to complain about a win, but that’s kind of been our last three or four nights,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “Eventually it’s going to come into a situation where our pitching isn’t going to hold them all the time. We’re going to have to have somebody drive in a run or two.”
Anderson has been outstanding since arriving in town from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins early this month. He is 2-0 with a 1.57 earned run average in four starts, including six innings of five-hit ball here.
The only run charged against him was unearned.
“He’s a strike thrower,” Mauer said. “It’s not overwhelming stuff, but he doesn’t beat himself. Brady is the kind of guy who is going to have to get outs in the first three or four pitches of an at-bat. He had five tonight, but he’s not going to strike out a bunch.”
Anderson, 23, was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, which is the Minnesota Twins’ spring-training home and where its minor leagues are based. The right-hander set his school’s record for most career innings pitched but didn’t get a call on any of the 2016 draft’s three days because his stuff is relatively pedestrian (high-80s fastball, etc.).
But he knows how to pitch, obviously, which has made him effective early in his pro career.
“You get into straight attack mode,” Mauer said. “That’s what he did in college. He was Mr. Everything there at FGCU. I think he set about every record they have. He just throws it over and challenges hitters. He really didn’t give up much tonight.”
The Kernels (69-57, 33-24 second half) remain three games ahead of Burlington for the first of two available second-half playoffs spots in the Midwest League’s Western Division. Wisconsin is a game behind Burlington.
There are 13 regular-season games remaining for Cedar Rapids, including another one against Q.C. Tuesday night at 6:35. The River Bandits dropped six behind the Kernels with Monday’s loss.
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