CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Titans and Sioux Falls Storm have met in the conference title game in each of the past four seasons.
If the Titans have any hope to make it five, they will need to dig out of an ever-increasing hole.
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GRAND CHUTE, Wis. — Zander Wiel thought he got it. The smile on his face told you.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels first baseman needed a home run in his eighth-inning at-bat Wednesday night to hit for the coveted cycle. Wiel drove a pitch to left field that appeared off the bat to be that homer, only it ended up being caught for an out.
Just missed. That was something you couldn’t say about the Kernels, who didn’t miss much in an 11-3 battering of Wisconsin in Game 1 of the Midwest League Western Division semifinals.
The best-of-three series shifts to Veterans Memorial Stadium. Game 2 is 6:35 Thursday night, with an if-needed Game 3 Friday night.
If Cedar Rapids keeps hitting like it did here, it won’t be needed.
“Up and down the lineup. Everybody had a pretty good night,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer.
The Kernels finished with 17 hits, including four triples. Luis Arraez had two of them, with Wiel and Travis Blankenhorn adding one each.
Wiel, Blankenhorn and J.J. Fernandez went back-to-back-to-back with doubles leading off a five-run fifth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. The Kernels posted five consecutive hits in the uprising against Wisconsin starting pitcher Jordan Yamamoto and reliever Christian Trent.
Yamamoto threw six shutout innings against C.R. last week in a game at Fox Cities Stadium, striking out 11, but took the loss here, allowing nine hits and six runs in five-plus innings.
“He had a gameplan against us (last week), and our hitters really adjusted well,” Mauer said. “All the guys did. We kind of took his fastball away from him ... I’m pretty proud of our approach tonight.”
Kernels pitchers Lachlan Wells, Michael Cederoth and Colton Davis combined to strikeout 16 Timber Rattlers. Winner Wells had nine of them in his five-inning start, with Cederoth adding five in three perfect relief frames.
“Cederoth was pretty dominant,” Mauer said. “He just went right after guys.”
Game 2’s pitching matchup is Eduardo Del Rosario for the Kernels and Marcos Diplan for Wisconsin. Del Rosario went 6-2 with a 3.67 earned run average in 16 regular-season starts while Diplan was 6-2 with a 1.80 ERA in 17 appearances in the regular season.
He spent the final two months in high-Class A, though was sent back to Wisconsin for the playoffs. Parent Milwaukee Brewers 2016 top draft pick Corey Ray also joined the Timber Rattlers from high-A for the final three regular-season games and the playoffs.
The Kernels made a roster move prior to Game 1, as starting pitcher Tyler Beardsley was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Right-handed reliever Patrick McGuff was sent to C.R. from Rookie-level Elizabethton, where he was 2-0 with nine saves and a 2.77 ERA in 18 appearances.
“Those guys are going to come at us,” Mauer said. “We’re facing a tough pitcher tomorrow night who got sent down from high-A. I hope Del Rosario can give us a chance.”
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