116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — They had to do it in a difficult way, but they did indeed do it.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels clinched a spot in the High-A Central League baseball championship series Sunday, ending the regular season with an 11-0 win over the Peoria Chiefs at Dozer Park in Peoria, Ill.
Cedar Rapids will play Quad Cities in an all-Iowa final. The top two teams in the league, regardless of division, qualified, which made this unique neighborhood title series possible.
The first two games of the best-of-5 set will be at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 6:35 Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After an off day Thursday, the final three games, if needed, will be at Davenport.
Quad Cities finished with a 77-41 record.
“I think everybody’s excited,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “You play this game for a reason. To make it to the big leagues but also to win and have a chance to win a league title. The boys are excited. You know, a different format this year with just the one series. We’re in the championship now, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Kernels officially got into the playoffs about an hour prior to their regular-season finale ending Sunday, when Lake County lost to Beloit. Cedar Rapids finished with a 67-53 record, two games up on Lake County and Dayton.
Edouard Julien and DaShawn Keirsey Jr. had home runs, part of a 15-hit attack for C.R. Five pitchers, led by starter Aaron Rozek combined for a three-hit shutout.
The Kernels played their final 12 regular-season games on the road, six each at Wisconsin and Peoria. They went 4-2 in each of those series, winning the final four games of this one.
“Playing two weeks in a row on the road in six-game series can make it long,” Dinkelman said. “But the boys battled through. The first two nights here weren’t great, but we were able to pull off four in a row … Looking forward to this week.”
Quad Cities won the regular-season series between the teams 17-7. The teams played at the end of August/early September in C.R.’s final home series, splitting six games.
“We’ve been swinging the bats OK,” Dinkelman said. “Scoring a few runs, with the pitching staff doing well, as they always have been (this season). It’ll be a tough series. Quad Cities has been good all season, leading the league in everything. It’ll be a tough series, but we are looking forward to it.”
This is the eighth season Cedar Rapids has been affiliated with the parent Minnesota Twins, and it has been a playoff qualifier in all eight of them. The Kernels have not won a league championship since 1994.
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