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CEDAR RAPIDS — Tommy Watkins did about everything he could to earn his first career managerial ejection Saturday night. Perhaps the umpires knew they were wrong, and let the first-year Cedar Rapids Kernels skipper slide this time.
A disputed passed ball in the top of the ninth inning allowed Anfernee Grier to score all the way from second base and give Kane County a 4-3 win over the Kernels at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Grier was at second base with one away when C.R. reliever Max Cordy threw a high fastball at which Kane County’s Kyle Smith swung. That part is indisputable.
What is up for debate is if Smith cleanly missed the pitch or if he got a piece of it. Kernels catcher Ben Rortvedt whiffed on catching the ball, with it deflecting off home plate umpire Jason Johnson’s mask and rolling toward the entrance of the Cedar Rapids dugout.
By the time Rortvedt located it, Grier had crossed the plate.
“I think so,” Rortvedt said, when asked if it was a foul ball. “I thought I heard something.”
Watkins stormed the field and screamed at Johnson, who conferred with base umpire James Folske. The call didn’t change.
“I really thought it was a foul ball,” Watkins said. “I mean, it hit off the umpire’s mask, you know? It was either that, or he just completely missed on (the catch). I thought I heard a click and a hit, and then saw the ball flying away.”
At the conclusion of the half inning, Watkins ran to the outfield to get another couple of verbal shots in at Folske. Cordy chirped at Johnson and was ejected.
The Kernels also were displeased at a call in the seventh inning in which an off-balanced throw to first by third baseman Travis Blankenhorn on a slow chopper he had to charge and field barehanded didn’t go the Kernels’ way, either. First baseman Mitchell Kranson came off the bag to corral Blankenhorn’s throw but appeared to tag the Kane County runner, who was ruled safe.
Folske conferred with Johnson on that play, too, but the call was upheld. That one did not cost the Kernels a run.
Just one of those nights.
“What are you going to do?” Watkins said.
Kranson doubled past third base to lead off the bottom of the ninth for the Kernels, but a flyout, strikeout and groundout ended the game. All three played in this four-game series thus far have been decided either in the ninth or in extra innings, with Kane County winning two.
The teams get back at it Sunday afternoon at 2:05.
Back-to-back two-out doubles from Blankenhorn and Lewin Diaz tied things for C.R. in the eighth. Diaz also had a two-out RBI single in the sixth.
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