116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Jimmy Kerrigan apologized to his manager postgame Wednesday night.
'Sorry for not getting the bunt down,' the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder told Tommy Watkins, as they passed each other in the hallway of the home clubhouse at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Watkins just gave him a big hug. All is forgiven when you come up with the winning hit.
That's what Kerrigan got, singling through a drawn-in infield to score Lewin Diaz in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 6-5 victory over Kane County in the first game of this best-of-3 Midwest League playoff series. Things shift for the western suburbs of Chicago for Thursday night's Game 2.
The Kernels have the MWL's earned run average champ on the mound in Clark Beeker.
'I think that first win is a huge advantage for us,' said closer Hector Lujan, who pitched a spotless ninth inning for the save. 'It gives us momentum.'
Diaz led off the C.R. eighth by beating an extreme shift with an opposite-field double to a vacated left field. It was his third two-bagger of the night.
Kerrigan fouled a pair of bunt attempts straight back but battled to stay in his at-bat. A wild pitch by losing relief pitcher Connor Grey moved Diaz to third, Kerrigan fouled off a couple more two-strike pitches, then hit a sharp grounder through the right side.
'I was trying to get the bunt down and get Diaz over, give Shane (Carrier) a chance to get him in. It didn't work out that way,' Kerrigan said. 'Tried to bunt a bad pitch there 0-1, and, after that, I'm just trying to battle and put the ball in play. It felt great getting that RBI. Now we just need to win one more and get to that next round.'
'Bunting has gotten to be such a hard thing to do. I don't know why,' Watkins said. 'I think a lot of guys try to run before they actually bunt it. We've got to get those bunts down in those situations.'
The Kernels scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning for an immediate lead. Diaz doubled in a pair and Kerrigan plated the other on a groundout.
Kane County got two unearned runs against Kernels starting pitcher Tyler Wells in the top of the second that were countered by a pair of Kernels runs. Those were driven in by Diaz, who was given the green light on a 3-0 pitch.
'I just told myself I had to step up there and do whatever I can to help my team,' said Diaz, through teammate and translator Lujan. 'The good lord blessed me with some at-bats to be able to do that.'
Kane County scored a run in the third to make it a 5-3 game, then tied it in the seventh on a two-run home run to the short porch in left by Ramon Hernandez. That came against reliever Ryan Mason.
Logan Lombana got the pitching win with a shutout eighth for Cedar Rapids.
'We like to make it interesting, that's for sure,' Kerrigan said. 'But we've got a bunch of grinders on this team. A bunch of guys who want to win and will do anything to win.'
Shortstop Royce Lewis, the top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, did not play Wednesday night for the Kernels because of a hamstring tweak suffered in his team's penultimate regular-season game Sunday. Watkins said he is day to day.
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