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CEDAR RAPIDS — Here’s the crazy thing. Royce Lewis feels like he hasn’t exactly been in a zone offensively lately.
“I’ve just been missing a lot (of pitches) recently,” the shortstop said, after his three-run home run helped the Cedar Rapids Kernels past Beloit, 5-4, Monday afternoon before 3,586 fans on eclipse day at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “Barely, just barely, missing balls. Balls that I feel like I should be hitting.”
It’s nuts hearing him say that considering the first-overall draft pick this June has a batting average of .385 in his first nine games since being promoted from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. That includes a pair of four-hit games.
If the 18-year-old Californian is doing this without feeling great, what’s going to happen when he is? Scary to think about.
“It’s been a lot of fun. More professional around here,” Lewis said. “All the older guys have been teaching me a lot of stuff. I have learned a lot more just being up here, just from being in a more experienced environment. I learned a lot, too, in the GCL, more on the playing side. This has been more about life and being the best person you can be. That’s what I’ve liked.”
Lewis has seemed to handle all of the attention and hype surrounding being No. 1 with aplomb. He is great with fans, extremely courteous to everyone he comes across, and seems to simply want to fit in with his teammates.
He smoked his home run against Beloit starting pitcher Xavier Altamirano to left-center field, a line drive that just cleared the fence to give the Kernels (68-59, 29-28) a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. It was his first longball with the club, his fourth as a professional.
“Just a nice swing, got it out in front a little bit,” Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins said. “That’s what Dink (hitting coach Brian Dinkelman) and I were saying to him: get the head out a little bit. He got it out on that one.”
Tyler Wells was very good in his first pitching start since June 26 for Cedar Rapids, which swept this four-game series, won its fourth in a row and has won nine of 11. He pitched one out into the seventh, allowing four hits and two runs.
Wells was on the disabled list for the second time this season with a shoulder problem and was officially sent to the Kernels from the GCL for Monday’s game, though he has been in town since the weekend. Pitcher Evan Sanders was sent to the DL with a groin strain.
“First start back here, it was good,” Watkins said. “I thought he kind of got himself into trouble there that one inning (the second), started throwing a lot of breaking balls. Guys weren’t really on his fastball, and he was slowing it down for them. The two hits that inning were both on offspeed pitches, and they ended up both scoring. Then he went back in with his fastball. That’s a big thing we talked about this year: use your fastball. Then when they’re on your fastball, then change it up.”
Beloit made things more than interesting in the ninth. Trailing 5-2, the first five Snappers reached base, making it a one-run game with the bases loaded and none out.
But reliever Hector Lujan got a flyball to left-center field, with no tag, then the old 1-2-3 double play to end it. The Kernels hit the road for seven straight games, including a series at Kane County that begins Tuesday night.
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