116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It didn’t look like it’d be a home run.
Jair Camargo’s flyball with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning was hit opposite field to right. A 3-1 fastball middle-away that he went away with.
“I kind of felt like I hit the barrel pretty well,” Camargo said. “It was just hit too high.”
But high in this case was advantageous. A significant enough breeze blowing left to right kept pushing Camargo’s ball toward the right-field corner and eventually just over the right-field fence.
A game-winning homer for him, a 2-1 win for his Cedar Rapids Kernels over Quad Cities in Game 1 of the High-A Central League championship series. And a lost glove for Quad Cities right fielder Tucker Bradley, who leaped high to try to bring Camargo’s hit back into the ballpark, only to lose control of his mitt and have it fall over the fence.
“Thank God the wind was blowing that way,” Camargo said of his winner.
“Great game tonight, good atmosphere,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “We get a home run there in the eighth inning to get a victory. Didn’t know if it was going out for sure. The right fielder made a heck of a play on it. I’m not sure if that ball was in his glove when it landed over the fence or not. But, yeah, fortunate it went over.”
This really was just a good old-fashioned playoff baseball game. Quad Cities got a run in the top of the second inning against Cedar Rapids starting pitcher Louie Varland, but the right-hander prevented more damage by getting out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam.
First he got leadoff hitter Maikel Garcia to hit a fielder’s choice grounder to first base, with the runner thrown out at the plate on a forceout. Then Bradley hit a soft liner to second.
Varland settled down after his early issues and went seven innings, retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
“I ran into some trouble there in the second inning. They had some soft-contact hits that dropped for base hits. The walk didn’t help,” Varland said. “But got out of there giving up luckily only one run. After that, I found my groove, kind of settled in with all my pitches. It just kind of worked out.”
“That’s kind of the way he’s been for us all year,” Dinkelman said. “Attack the strike zone, work fast. You couldn’t have asked for anymore.”
The Kernels tied the game immediately in the bottom of the second when Camargo doubled off the right-field wall with two outs and scored on DaShawn Keirsey Jr.’s ensuing line-drive double to left-center.
The Kernels left the bases loaded in the sixth and left two on in the seventh. But Camargo’s timely fly bailed them out.
Osiris German threw a perfect eighth inning to pick up the pitching win in relief. Zach Featherstone allowed a one-out John Rave single in the ninth but got back-to-back strikeouts, including Jake Means on a checked swing to end it.
One down, two more to go.
“This is a lot of fun for us,” Varland said, of playoff baseball. “It’s electric.”
“At the end of the day, on your way to hopefully the big leagues, this is what you want to do,” Camargo said. “You play for a championship. They are just different games. The adrenaline goes up. It’s a different experience. It’s fun, and I think it’s something that will help you when you make it to the big leagues. “
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