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Cedar Rapids Kernels season comes to an end
South Bend scored 4 runs in the top of the 1st inning and rolled to a 9-3 win Friday night in deciding Game 3 of Midwest League Western Division championship series
CEDAR RAPIDS — Nine for 9. And 0 for 9.
Maybe one of these years.
South Bend scored four runs in the top of the first inning, ran to an early 7-0 lead and beat the Cedar Rapids Kernels, 9-3, Friday night in the winner-take-all third game of their best-of-3 Midwest League Western Division championship series at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It’s South Bend and Lake County in the best-of-3 title series.
This was the ninth consecutive year the Kernels have qualified for the MWL/High-A Central League playoffs as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Cedar Rapids has reached the finals twice, played in a winner-take-all game twice in that span but still hasn’t won a championship since 1994, when it was affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels.
This Kernels team won the Western Division’s first half and finished 74-60, playoffs included.
“Good battle by the boys,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “A good season. But, yeah, you’d always like to win one more.”
South Bend’s first three hitters reached against Kernels starting pitcher Orlando Rodriguez, on a walk, single and hit by pitch, respectively. After a sacrifice fly, Luis Verdugo doubled to center to score two runs for an immediately 3-0 Cubs lead.
Verdugo went to third on a wild pitch and scored on B.J. Murray’s single to center field. That was the end of the night for Rodriguez, who had a 2.97 earned run average in the regular season and who had not allowed more than two runs in any of his six starts since joining the rotation in late July.
“He’d been throwing well,” Dinkelman said.
Six relievers pitched the rest of the game for Cedar Rapids. Meanwhile, South Bend starter Daniel Palencia was dealing, as he allowed just two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out eight in five really good innings for the win.
The Kernels got their runs in the seventh inning on a Willie Joe Garry Jr. sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Mikey Perez.
“Palencia threw good tonight,” Dinkelman said. “He had three pitches working well, was 96 to 98 with his fastball. We didn’t really have much of a threat against him. Finally got a little action there in the seventh inning, got three back, but it was too little, too late.”
The Kernels forced Game 3 with a 5-3 win Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. They scored three go-ahead runs in the fifth inning, on a bases-loaded walk, an ensuing hit by pitch and bases-loaded balk.
As it turned out, Game 1 at South Bend was the big game in the series. Behind the fine starting pitching of David Festa (six shutout innings, with 10 strikeouts), Cedar Rapids took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning.
But a leadoff bloop double, an errant throw on a sacrifice fly past first base, another sacrifice bunt and an RBI single gave the Cubs a stunning 2-1 victory.
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