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.
Independence nearly matc ... »
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CEDAR RAPIDS — New is different and sometimes very uncomfortable. Jaylin Davis can attest to that.
But a change in the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder’s batting stance is what his coaches ultimately believe is for the best. He’d be hard pressed to argue with them after Friday night’s results.
Davis came through with a walk-off single the other way to right field that gave the Kernels a 4-3, 12-inning win over Kane County at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The teams have split the first two games of their four-game series.
“They’ve been working with me to kind of get off the plate a little bit,” Davis said. “I was trying something out new today. So I just backed off the plate, knew they weren’t going to come inside in that situation, that they would probably go away. I was looking for something away that whole at-bat. Something up.”
He got it, lifting a 1-1 fastball from Kane County reliever Jose Martinez (1-1) to the edge of the warning track. The twisting drive scored Travis Blankenhorn from third base.
He led off the bottom of the 12th with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on another. Lewin Diaz was walked intentionally on a 3-2 pitch to bring up Davis and his new stance.
“I’m more toe to toe than I was,” he said. “Just trying to get more consistent. More timing, seeing everything a lot better.”
There’s no question the former Appalachian State slugger has the power teams covet, though he’s had issues making contact, particularly on breaking balls. That’s what made his final two at-bats here so encouraging.
Davis singled sharply to center field with one out in the 10th off a curve.
“We’re trying to get him to understand that if things don’t happen right now, just stick with it,” said Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins. “This is for the long run ... That’s part of having a good mindset. You might go 0-for-4 with a couple of punchouts, but we’re working on something. If you stick with it, it’s going to help you in the long run. That showed today. We gave him a day off yesterday and kind of talked about some things. He hit in the cage with it a little bit today, took it into BP and then into the game.”
Tom Hackimer (1-1) threw 3 1/3 hitless relief innings to notch the victory. He and Logan Lombana combined for six shutout innings out of the bullpen.
Cedar Rapids (8-7) tied the game in the seventh, 3-3, on a Jermaine Palacios RBI infield hit to shortstop. He finished with three hits to increase his batting average to the magic .400 mark.
The teams play again Saturday at 5:05 p.m.
“They battled tonight,” Watkins said of his club. “You’ve got to give it to them. They battled for 11 innings. That was fun to watch. I told them that as long as we play hard and be in games, we’ll take that.”
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