116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — They’ve been at this going on their fifth month. They’ve gotten in all 103 of their games through Tuesday night, of a scheduled 120.
That in itself is an achievement for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. No one really knew completely what to expect in a COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t had any games, knock on wood, canceled this year because of COVID,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman, whose team blasted Quad Cities, 12-2, Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “We had one incident earlier this year where we had a couple of guys get removed from a game and missed a couple of days.
“But other than that, we’ve managed to get through this and keep guys on the field playing baseball. So for us to have a season and get all of our games in, you’d have to say that’s pretty good success.”
The Kernels have had pretty good success win-loss wise as well. They are 57-46 after disposing of the River Bandits, second overall in the High-A Central League.
The top two clubs in the league regardless of division will meet in a winner-take-all, best-of-5 championship series once the regular season concludes Sept. 19. Quad Cities (67-34) has one of those spots clinched.
Cedar Rapids is one game up on Great Lakes, two up on Lake County and 3 1/2 ahead of Dayton for the second spot. It won’t be easy for the Kernels to stay in second, as they play five more games against QC, then hit the road for a pair of six-game series at Wisconsin and Peoria to end the regular season.
Still, they have a chance.
“I think the guys are into it,” Dinkelman said. “We’ve had a good season, and we’ve been in the playoff hunt for quite awhile. With it being a shorter playoff this year, just the one round, I do think the guys are excited to perhaps get a chance to play for a championship. See if we can win it.”
The Kernels active roster has seen a lot of change in the past month. Starting pitcher Ben Gross was promoted to Double-A Wichita on Monday, with fellow right-hander Sean Mooney joining the club from low-A Fort Myers.
Minnesota Twins 2020 first-round draft pick Aaron Sabato joined the team last week when it was on the road at Beloit. A power-hitting first baseman from the University of North Carolina, Sabato went into Tuesday 4-for-18 with the Kernels, with a pair of doubles, a pair of home runs, a pair of walks and 11 strikeouts.
“We’ve had guys who have had great years, had some players who have gone up to Double-A, earned the promotion,” Dinkelman said. “We’ve had other guys here who have had good seasons. So, yeah, I think it’s been a good year for pitchers and hitters. It has been exciting to win some ballgames and give us a chance here possibly to make the playoffs.”
Cedar Rapids scored five runs in the fourth and seven runs in the sixth to run away. Michael Helman had three hits and two RBIs for the Kernels, with Seth Gray adding a pair of hits and three RBIs.