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CEDAR RAPIDS — It wasn’t just that Kevin Garcia was able to throw two scoreless innings of emergency relief Friday night for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
The catcher closed some games in high school and junior college. When he first got to Loyola Marymount, he pitched a little bit, too, until it was determined he would be strictly a position player.
He had some experience.
“He knew what he was doing,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “He went out there and went right at guys.”
Garcia ended up getting the win in his first professional pitching outing, as the Kernels scored a run in the top of the 16th inning and held on to beat Wisconsin, 5-4. The game got over about 12:30 a.m., with the Kernels getting back to town around 6:30.
They hosted Clinton on Saturday night, the start of the final three-game series of the regular season.
“It was fun,” Garcia said. “It was new for me in pro ball, obviously. I’m just glad we finally got out of there after a five-and-a-half hour game.”
Here’s the really amazing thing about Garcia’s effort. He caught the first 14 innings.
Talk about dead legs. The guy was still able to throw his fastball regularly at 86 to 87 miles per hour, topping out at 89.
“I was warming up and called a slider, but our catcher (Rainis) Silva told me not to throw it,” Garcia said. “So it was mostly fastballs and changeups.”
“To be honest, it was getting to the point where we needed something to break one way or the other,” Mauer said. “Not that the game was meaningless for us, but it was a little more important to them than it was to us. We’re trying to get our rotation set (for the playoffs) and didn’t need to burn another arm.”
Garcia pitched a three-up, three-down 15th, including a strikeout. After Nelson Molina’s RBI triple gave C.R. a lead in the top of the 16th, the bottom half began with a fielding error.
Undeterred, Garcia got a strikeout, pop-up and fielder’s choice grounder to end the marathon.
“After we got our three outs in the 14th, I came back in the dugout and Jake said ‘Hey, you’re throwing the 15th.’ He didn’t ask me, he just told me,” Garcia said. “I was like ‘Oh, OK. I’d better go warm up and stuff.’ He told me ‘I don’t think you’re going to have time. Just get on the mound and do your thing.’ All right. That was about it.”
• Cedar Rapids will play either Wisconsin or Burlington in the best-of-3 Midwest League Western Division playoff semifinals. Going into Saturday night, Wisconsin held a one-game lead for the final postseason spot with three games to play. Game 1 of the series will be Wednesday night at either Wisconsin or Burlington, with Games 2 and 3 (if needed) Thursday and Friday at Cedar Rapids.
• The other Western Division semifinal will pit Peoria against Clinton, with Peoria holding home-field advantage. In the Eastern Division, it’s West Michigan against South Bend (South Bend has home field) and Bowling Green versus either Great Lakes or Lansing (Bowling Green having home-field advantage).
• Former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Mitch Keller threw six shutout innings Tuesday night in his high-Class A debut for the Bradenton Pirates. Keller allowed just five hits and a walk against Jupiter, striking out seven. He earned a promotion after going 9-5 with a 2.35 earned run average in 24 starts for Class A West Virginia. Keller’s fine season has vaulted him into one of the top 50 to 100 prospects in the minors, according to most experts.
• Former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Scott Schebler continues to progress at the major-league level. The Cincinnati Reds outfielder bumped his batting average to .243 going into Saturday with a hot stretch that including him going 7-for-18 in the Reds’ last seven games. Schebler began the season with Cincinnati but was shipped back to Triple-A Louisville after the emergence of Adam Duvall relegated him to a bench role. The trade of all-star Jay Bruce in late July opened up an outfield spot for Schebler, and he has taken advantage.
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