MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
The top-ranked Saints s ... »
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Charlie Barnes had immediate success in the Midwest League.
He impressed by not giving up a run in his first two starts with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. His third appearance, however, was more of a learning experience, including six runs allowed from three home runs.
“Obviously, you don’t want to get hit around, but you try to take something positive out of every outing, no matter how good or bad it is,” said Barnes, a fourth-round draft pick this year out of Clemson University. “I really had to go back to work and fund my mechanics.”
Barnes’ resolve and hard work paid dividends. The left-hander resembled the starter from those early showings, tossing five scoreless innings, in the Kernels' 1-0, victory over the Beloit Snappers Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
“It was a really good bounce-back start for him,” Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins said. “He filled the zone well and he used the change-up. I think that’s what he does best. It was good to see.”
Barnes (2-0) allowed one infield single, striking out four and walking two in his final inning. He allowed only four batters to reach base, including one on a dropped third strike, and just one advanced beyond first.
“The pitching coach J.P. (Martinez) and me watched some film together and went over some things,” Barnes said. “We tweaked a thing here or there. Nothing huge and we found it again this week. It all boiled down to command.”
Watkins said baseball is a game of adjustments. Barnes did exactly that, realizing he previously left too many pitches over the center of the plate.
With velocity in the high 80s, he has to rely on moving the ball around, working the ball up and down and corner to corner. He threw 70 pitches and 42 of those were strikes, keeping the Snappers off balance.
“I just tried to command the fastball,” Barnes said. “I got ahead of hitters, which was really big. From there, I went off-speed or stuck with the fastball.”
The performance was what the Kernels needed, managing just four hits of their own. Travis Blankenhorn provided all the offense Barnes and three relievers needed. Blankenhorn belted an 0-1 pitch off Beloit’s Seth Martinez that sailed over the right-field wall just inside the foul pole in the fourth.
Blankenhorn hit his ninth homer of the season. He is just getting back into form after about two weeks on the disabled list.
“It was huge,” Watkins said. “He’s still trying to get his feet wet with (at-bats) from the two weeks he missed. It was good for him.”
Three relievers contributed to the shutout. Logan Lombana threw two innings followed by an inning each from Eduardo Del Rosario and Hector Lujan, who earned his 15th save of the season.
Lujan converted his seventh straight save. He’s filled the role well, replacing two other Kernels closers who have been promoted.
“He’s progressed well,” Watkins said. “He stepped right in.
“He’s the guy that puts the work in. It shows on the field. We had no problem when those guys moved up, handing Hector the ball. He’s taken it and ran with it.”
The Kernels defense was solid. They turned two key double plays, including a 5-4-3 double-play started by third baseman Jordan Gore to end the game. The Kernels improved to 27-28 in the second half.
“Overall good win,” Watkins said. “We played good defense. Pitching and defense win games.
“The guys have been doing a good job. Hopefully, they keep it up.”
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