Jaylin Davis ties club record with 3 home runs, as Kernels outlast Peoria, 7-6

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jaylin Davis took a mighty cut at the first pitch he saw Tuesday night and missed it.

The swing from the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder was so ferocious, his manager shouted at him from the third-base coach’s box. Not necessarily in a good way.

“I just yelled ‘Hey, nice and easy. Shorten it up,’” Tommy Watkins said. “Next pitch, home run. His swing was a lot more fluid. If he gets the barrel to it, the ball will go.”

And the ball went three times for Davis, tying the club record for home runs in a game. The Kernels ended up outlasting Peoria, 7-6, at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“For me, I’ve been struggling lately,” Davis said. “So I just feel like hopefully this will help me take off. I felt like tonight I was seeing the ball really well.”

Apparently really, really well. Though the wind was blowing straight out about 20 miles per hour, none of his blasts were cheapies.

The 22-year-old from Appalachian State took an 0-1 changeup from Peoria starting pitcher Ian Oxnevad out to dead center in the second inning. In his next at-bat in the fourth, he smoked an Oxnevad fastball 420 feet off the batter’s eye in center, providing an exit velocity off his bat of 110 miles per hour.

Picking on another first-pitch fastball, Davis went the opposite way to right field in the seventh.

“That’s definitely a good sign, because I feel like I’m better that way,” he said. “When I’m pulling off the ball, that’s not when I’m any good.”

This was the first time a Cedar Rapids player has hit three homers in a game since Mitch Garver did it in 2014. Watkins was the Kernels’ hitting coach then.

“I remember that like it was yesterday,” he said. “Because it was a day game, and he came to the cage a little late ... I told him ‘Hey, it’s their time.’ Sometimes those are the best days. First three at-bats, home runs. It’s like BP is overrated.”

Only three guys in Midwest League history have had four home runs in a regular-season game, the last being former big leaguer Garret Jones of Quad Cities in 2002. With his only shot at that record, Davis grounded to shortstop in the eighth.

“Really, truly, I was thinking ‘I’m not going to see a fastball here.’ And I didn’t,” Davis said.

The Kernels (22-16) scored three runs in the eighth to break a 4-4 tie, having to hang on in the top of the ninth. The first four hitters reached against reliever Hector Lujan, but he pitched around the trouble just well enough, getting a sparkling defensive play at third base from Caleb Hamilton and striking out the final two hitters with the tying run at third.

The teams play again Wednesday at noon. By the way, Davis is 15-for-30 in eight games this season against the Chiefs, 13 for 94 against everyone else.

“I see it well against them,” he said with a smile.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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