116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Realistically he could have gone the whole way. All nine innings.
Louie Varland was about as efficient as efficient gets Wednesday night in the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ 10-1 victory over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The starting pitcher was at 75 pitches through seven innings.
The always-rare complete game, especially in the minor leagues, was in sight.
“There was the option for it,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “We felt the way the game was going, we had enough bullpen arms to get him out of the game with maybe a little bit less than what he needs … But, yeah, there was a chance he could have worked the full nine.”
Varland retired the first nine guys he faced, gave up a solo home run to Joey Wiemer leading off the fourth inning, but that was the lone Wisconsin damage. He constantly was able to get outs early in counts.
“I had all three of my pitches working,” he said. “I went offspeed heavy, and they had a lot of soft contact for outs. It just kind of worked out that way. I did want the eighth inning, but with the COVID season last year, I don’t want to risk injury and all that and get over (extended) or whatever. They kept me at seven tonight, and I’m happy with it.”
Varland, 23, has been out and out terrific this season. The right-hander went 4-2 with a 2.09 earned run average in 10 appearances for low-Class A Fort Myers, got the deserved promotion to the High-A Central League and has statistically been even better.
He has a 4-0 record after this game for the Kernels and an ERA of 1.65 in six starts. He has given up 10 fewer hits than innings pitched here and is averaging over a strikeout per inning.
His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he has hit 99 miles per hour in a couple of outings for Cedar Rapids. He said being able to pick up a changeup has been key to his development, and that’s a pitch he wants to continue to be more consistent.
A 15th-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2019, Varland is a hometown kid, from Saint Paul, Minn., who played college baseball at NCAA Division II Concordia University. His older brother, Gus, pitches in Double-A in the Oakland Athletics system.
“When I started the year, I needed to make some changes, find some more pitches,” Varland said. “I have just progressively been learning, getting better. I take every start as a way to learn and get better, just trying to progress into the pitcher I am now. Going forward, I’m still eager to learn, eager to get better. To grade myself, I’d say I’m doing pretty good. Probably lucked out a little bit, but, overall, my hard work is paying off.”
The Kernels (51-41) climbed to 10 games over .500, which matches a season high. Jeferson Morales’ grand slam in the fourth inning put C.R. over the top.
The catcher from Venezuela has been a hitting revelation since coming to town from Fort Myers. He’s 12-for-27 in seven games, with 10 RBIs.
“He has a pretty good feel for the zone,” Dinkelman said. “Good bat-to-ball skills, puts the ball in play. So far, he has driven a couple of balls hard for home runs. Had a big grand slam for us tonight. He puts together good at-bats and seems to find the barrel.”
The teams play again Thursday night at 6:35.
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