El Gaucho nickname is gone, but Mitchell Kranson of C.R. Kernels continues to hit

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CEDAR RAPIDS — He wants to move beyond it. No one in the Cedar Rapids Kernels clubhouse really calls him by it.

“That was more a college nickname,” Mitchell Kranson said.

But it’s so cool, you’ve got to share it. At least this one time.

The Kernels catcher was known as “El Gaucho” back in his days at the University of California. That’s so awesome.

“Long story short, I went up to a steakhouse in Washington, Seattle. We were playing the University of Washington,” Kranson said, almost sheepishly, after his team’s 11-2 win Sunday afternoon over Kane County at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “That’s my favorite steakhouse in the world: El Gaucho. Went there, and I got four hits the next night.”

He got four hits here, with his only out a bullet at the left fielder in the eighth inning. No, he didn’t eat at a steakhouse Saturday night.

This was just great hitting: a line-drive home run down the right-field line in his first at-bat. It took about two seconds to get out.

Then there was a sharp single the other way through the left side in his next at-bat. A well-struck single through the right side followed, then it was a one-hop drive off the 390-foot sign in right-center that went for a RBI double.

Kranson has a stellar .367 batting average after two weeks of Midwest League play. He’s raking, which is what he always has been known for.

“I do feel pretty good right now,” he said. “I kind of made an adjustment after the first game we played these guys, I think it was. I just felt like I was rushing, so I just went back and decided to start a little earlier and a little slower. Slow my feet down. The last two days, I’ve been seeing the ball well. Today kind of showed that.”

Kranson was a ninth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins last year. He was a third baseman his senior year at Cal, though does have experience behind the plate.

It’s what he does at the left side of it that likely will carry him in his professional career.

“I love hitting,” he said. “I caught every game my sophomore year. Then my junior year, I caught the first game of the year and the last game of the year and then all the playoffs. But I definitely think my hitting has carried me to where I am today. I take pride in my hitting. I don’t really care where I play in the field, or if I’m DHing. As long as I’ve got a spot in the lineup.”

The Kernels (9-8) hit four home runs to split this four-game series against the Western Division’s top team. Kranson, Caleb Hamilton and Jermaine Palacios all went deep in a five-run second inning.

Palacios drove in five runs and had three more hits to boost his early season BA to .406. Jaylin Davis hit a majestic drive over the 407-foot sign in left-center in the fifth that was measured at 436 feet, with an exit velocity off his bat of 110 miles per hour.

That’s moving.

Starting pitcher Clark Beeker threw seven innings and gave up just one earned run to improve his record to 2-1. Cedar Rapids begins a three-game home series Monday night against Burlington.

Before Sunday’s game, the Kernels announced that pitcher Domenick Carlini has been assigned to extended spring training, replaced on the active roster by right-handed pitcher Quin Grogan, who joins the team from extended. Grogan is a 30th-round draft pick of the Twins last year out of Lewis-Clark State in Oregon who pitched last season for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins and Rookie-level Elizabethton.

Carlini pitched twice for C.R., including a start Saturday night.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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