116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The best way to go about winning extra-inning games as the home team in this day and age of professional baseball is pretty simple.
Just somehow hold the other team off the scoreboard in the top half and find a way in the bottom half to get home your free runner at second base. Easy, peasy.
But that’s not how the Cedar Rapids Kernels went about sweeping their Midwest League doubleheader Thursday night against Peoria at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Cedar Rapids allowed its opponent to get a run in the top of the eighth inning of both games, then countered with two runs in the bottom of the eighth of both games. Your finals were 3-2 in the opener and 4-3 in the nightcap.
Find a way, baby. Find a way.
“Able to come back in extra innings and win them,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “So that was an interesting night.”
An ultimately productive night for the Kernels, who have won the first three games of this six-game series and who have begun the season with a sizzling 10-2 record. They found a way to win games here in which Peoria had highly-regarded starting pitchers who came in having allowed just six combined hits and one run over 22 2/3 combined innings in their four combined starts, two from each.
Those pitchers, Michael McGreevy and Gordon Graceffo, continued to shove. McGreevy allowed seven hits and a run in six innings of Game 1, striking out nine, while Graceffo threw five three-hit, shutout innings, striking out nine.
But Kernels starters Sean Mooney (Game 1) and Casey Legumina (Game 2) pitched right with those two.
The Kernels got two in the eighth inning of the opener in a weird way. Kennie Taylor began on second base and beat a throw to third from Peoria’s shortstop, who had fielded a grounder off the bat of Willie Joe Garry Jr. toward the middle and ill-advisedly decided against a sure out. Taylor was thrown out at the plate on an ensuing chopper to third, with Garry Jr. going to third and Anthony Prato to second on a wild pitch.
Another chopper to third produced a throw home to try and nab Garry, but a terrific head-first slide helped him get his hand on the plate before the catcher’s tag. Jeferson Morales then hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Prato and win it.
In Game 2, Garry sent it to extra innings with a clutch two-out RBI single in the seventh past the second baseman and into right-center. Peoria scored, of course, in the top of the eighth, but no worries.
Christian Encarncion-Strand smoked a single through the box to put runners on the corners with none out. Morales grounded into a fielder’s choice at second that scored the tying run.
Jair Carmargo then lofted a twisting fly ball the other way that glanced off the fence in the right-field corner, allowing Morales to scoot home for the win.
“We just had some good at-bats and timely hitting when we needed to,” Dinkelman said.
The teams are scheduled to play again Friday night at 6:35.
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