116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Kernels built a big lead again Sunday afternoon. They were able to hang on to it this time.
A 7-4 win over Quad Cities in Game 2 of the Midwest League Western Division championship series sets up a winner-take-all Game 3 Monday night at 6:35 right back here at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
If that one's as good as the first two games of this series have been, that'll be all right.
'There's really nothing like playoff baseball,' said Kernels relief pitcher Colton Davis. 'The atmosphere and everything is awesome. All of the regular-season games are fun, too, but playing playoff baseball is definitely different. Every player who has been there can say that.'
It was Davis who played as big a role as anyone in this C.R. victory. He came on with the bases loaded and two away in the sixth inning and retired Abraham Toro on one pitch.
The routine fly to left ended what had been a four-run Quad Cities rally, one so eerily reminiscent of the four-run rally the River Bandits used in Saturday night's Game 1 in Davenport to come back from a 4-0 deficit and eventually win in extra innings.
'It was a little bit like it, yeah,' said Kernels third baseman Caleb Hamilton, who had three doubles and a RBI. 'There were some (ball-strike) calls that could have gone the other way today. You can't control that. We just have to bear down in the middle innings. I know it's rough for every team in the middle innings. Guys get a little bit tired and worn out. But we're hanging on.'
Davis then threw shutout relief innings in the seventh and eighth. Hector Lujan, the MWL's saves leader in the regular season, gave up a leadoff double in the ninth but got the next three outs for his third playoff save.
'Just do whatever I can to get the team back in the dugout,' Davis said. 'Get the momentum back on our side.'
Cedar Rapids scored four runs in the second inning of Saturday night's game and put three on the scoreboard here. That included a two-out, two-run home run by Shane Carrier.
A Travis Blankenhorn solo homer leading off the third made it a 4-0 Kernels lead, and three runs in the fifth appeared to put things completely out of reach, 7-0.
'You always want to strike first,' Carrier said. 'We've been doing a pretty good job of that as a team. It's huge to get those first runs on the board.'
Kernels starter Charlie Barnes threw the first five innings, constantly pitching out of trouble. The lefty gave up five hits and three walks but no runs.
He was lifted to begin the sixth, and that's when trouble happened. Reliever Patrick McGuff walked three of the four hitters he faced, appearing to get squeezed by home plate umpire Matt Cowan.
After his third walk, which came on four pitches that included a pair of borderline ones, McGuff barked at Cowan, as did Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins from the dugout. Randy Dobrak came on to relieve him and got a shallow fly to center field for the second out, but never was able to get the third one.
A wild pitch, three singles and a walk brought four Quad Cities runs across and Davis into the game.
'That's baseball, man. It's crazy,' Carrier said. 'You are just looking for the next out, to get out of the inning.'
So it comes down to Monday night for these teams. The winner advances to the MWL Championship Series against either Dayton or Fort Wayne.
The loser goes home. Tyler Wells gets the ball for Cedar Rapids, Kit Scheetz for Quad Cities.
'It's a little bit different. A different atmosphere in the playoffs,' Hamilton said. 'You are playing for something. Everything seems to be under a microscope. This is where you want to play your best baseball.'
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