Brandon Lopez pushes through long season, gets winning hit as C.R. Kernels topple Quad Cities
CEDAR RAPIDS — Brandon Lopez has been playing baseball pretty much for a year straight. No breaks, no rest, nothing.
He’s got to be running on fumes.
“Ah, not really,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels shortstop said, after his team’s 3-0 win Wednesday night over Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I can say my body is a little bit tired, but I go out there everyday and give 100 percent, no matter how I feel.”
Lopez was a 10th-round pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in June out of the University of Miami. The Hurricanes had fall ball last September, started their season just after the new year and made it to the College World Series.
He got drafted, signed after Miami’s CWS exit, got sent to Rookie ball and was promoted to the Midwest League in mid-August. Lopez singled sharply up the middle through a drawn-in infield to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning and help send Cedar Rapids (71-57, 35-24 second half) to its third consecutive victory in this series.
The Kernels go for the sweep Thursday night at 6:35.
“I think I’ve adjusted pretty well to pro ball,” Lopez said. “The pitching is a lot better. Guys throw more strikes, especially with the offspeed and stuff. But I’d say it’s pretty similar to college, depending on what teams you are playing in college.”
Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said he’s cognizant that players are physically dragging here as the regular season nears an end.
“Especially those guys who have been playing college ball, they’ve been going since January pretty much,” he said. “I know college doesn’t play every day, but probably three or four days a week. They’ve been going a long time ... It gets to be a lot for them.”
Lopez, 22, was a rare four-year starting shortstop for one of college baseball’s flagship programs. He’s very proud of that, as he should be.
“I’ve been a UM fan forever, grew up in Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “I always wanted to play at UM. To be able to play shortstop there for four years means the world to me.”
The Kernels didn’t have a baserunner the first five innings, stymied by lefty QC starting pitcher Framber Valdez (1-2). Jaylin Davis singled over shortstop to begin the sixth, Rainis Silva followed with a base hit to left, Casey Scoggins bunted those two over, and Lopez came through.
Zander Wiel’s perfectly placed two-out roller down the third-base line scored Silva for a 2-0 lead. Travis Blankenhorn and Silva had doubles in the seventh for an inurance run.
Sean Poppen, Michael Cederoth and Tom Hackimer combined on a two-hit shuout, with Cederoth (4-0) getting the victory with three dominant relief innings. The Kernels remained three games up on Burlington for the first of two available second-half playoff spots in the Western Division and moved six ahead of Wisconsin, with 11 games remaining.
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