116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The highly-popular theory is hitting with runners in scoring position wins big playoff games.
But Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, getting hit with runners in scoring position won a big playoff game. As did taking a walk with runners in scoring position.
As did being the recipient of a balk with runners in scoring position.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels stayed alive for a winner-take-all Game 3 in their Midwest League Western Division championship series by scoring three runs in the fifth inning Thursday night for a 5-3 Game 2 win over the South Bend Cubs.
Those were scored on just one hit, Brooks Lee’s leadoff double. Other than that, there were three walks, a hit batter and a balk.
Hey, they all count!
South Bend reliever Joe Nahas came on to relieve Adam Laskey with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth and promptly walked Jeferson Morales on four pitches to tie the game at 3. He went to a full count on Mikey Perez, then drilled him in the shoulder to bring home what turned out to be the winning run.
With the bases still loaded, Nahas clearly flinched on the mound after taking a sign from his catcher, that balk scoring yet another run. Not a pretty rally, but definitely a huge one.
“We were definitely ready to go,” said Perez, who was hit by a pitch, walked twice and doubled in the game. “Obviously it was one of those backs-against-the-wall types of games. But kind of took taking that energy from Game 1 (a 2-1 loss) and going out there and giving it all we’ve got because obviously this could be our last game before we all head home. So try and make the most out of it.”
“Energy was good,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “They didn’t feel nervous, they were just playing another game of baseball. I think once we got into the game there, got a lead, the energy came back to our side. Now go out tomorrow and see what happens.”
First pitch for Game 3 is 6:35 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The winner will play the winner of an Eastern Division winner-take-all Game 3 Friday night between Great Lakes and Lake County in the MWL Championship Series.
That series also is best-of-3, with Game 1 played in either Cedar Rapids or South Bend.
South Bend rallied for a pair of runs to win the first game of this series, 2-1. You seriously wondered if that would be the death knell for the Kernels, who came into this series with exact same regular-season record as its opponent (78-63).
Cedar Rapids stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning, with South Bend scoring in the top of the second on a Luis Verdugo run-scoring single. A Jake Rucker RBI groundout to second base tied the game in the C.R. second, with Wander Javier giving his team a 2-1 lead in the third on a solo home run to left.
South Bend tied it on a Pablo Aliendo two-out RBI single in the fourth and went ahead an inning later on a Fabian Petruz leadoff homer against Kernels starting pitcher Travis Adams in the fifth.
Cedar Rapids’ passive attack in the bottom of the fifth produced the game-tying and winning runs. C.R.’s bullpen of winning pitcher Jaylen Nowlin, Miguel Rodriguez and Ryan Shreve, who got the save, combined for five one-hit, shutout innings.
“In the first inning, we had the bases loaded and just couldn’t get the hit to take a lead,” Dinkelman said. “Then in the fifth inning, we took advantage of their guy being a little wild there. He walked a guy and hit a guy, gave us a couple of runs. Sometimes you get guys on, put a little pressure on the pitcher and get some runs there.”
Cedar Rapids is expected to send Orlando Rodriguez (4-1 record, 2.97 earned run average) to the mound to start Friday night’s game. South Bend is expected to counter with hard-throwing right-hander Daniel Valencia (1-3, 3.94), who hit 101 miles per hour with a fastball thrown in a regular-season game against the Kernels last week at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
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