116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — This is the ninth year the Cedar Rapids Kernels have been a minor league baseball affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. It’s the ninth year the Kernels have made the Midwest League playoffs.
Yeah, yeah, last year it was called the High-A Central League, but you get the gist.
Of these nine postseason clubs, the 2022 edition probably doesn’t stack up to most of the others when it comes to the world of prospect-dom. Shortstop Brooks Lee was the eighth-overall draft pick in July and has jumped to the top of most lists when it comes to ranking Twins minor league prospects.
David Festa has emerged as a pitcher to look out for moving forward. Yet other than those two, the active roster doesn’t seem rife with can’t-miss dudes.
That’s not a knock on this team, in the least. It played good baseball, found a way to regularly win games, finishing the regular season with a 73-58 overall record, winning a first-half championship and advancing to meet the South Bend Cubs in the MWL Western Division finals.
Game 1 of the best-of-three series is 6:05 Tuesday night in Indiana. After a day off Wednesday, things move to Cedar Rapids for Game 2 Thursday night at 6:35.
If a deciding Game 3 is needed, it will be Friday night at 6:35 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. South Bend won the second-half division championship and also finished the regular season with a 73-58 overall record.
Great Lakes and Lake County are in the Eastern Division finals, by the way.
“In these short series, you never know what might happen,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “You get a couple of big hits, get some good pitching from guys and that gives us a chance.”
The Kernels went 7-4 in the regular season against South Bend. Despite being division mates, the clubs played just two series against each other: one in June in South Bend and one last week in Cedar Rapids that concluded the regular-season schedule.
The Kernels won three of five games, with Saturday night’s game canceled by rain. Considering they just met, there will be zero surprises for either going into this series.
“We should know each other,” Dinkelman said. “We’ve seen all their arms: their starters and the guys out of the bullpen, so we know what they can do. A lot of familiarity. We hadn’t played them since back in June, but, yeah, we know them pretty well now.”
Cedar Rapids led the Midwest League in earned run average (3.66), with South Bend finishing fifth (3.91). South Bend led the MWL in batting average (.252), with C.R. eighth (.235), though the Kernels led the league in runs, thanks to finishing second in home runs and OPS.
Neither team has disclosed its starting rotation for this series, it very likely could be rematches from last week: Festa (7-3 record, 2.71 earned run average) and Luis Devers (the MWL Pitcher of the Month in August) in Game 1, and right-handers Travis Adams (2-3, 4.88) and Parker Hodge (3-3, 1.98) in Game 2.
C.R.’s last Midwest League title came way back in 1994, as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. It lost a winner-take-all game for last year’s championship to Quad Cities and a winner-take-all game in 2015 to West Michigan.
This city is due. Maybe this year.
“We swung the bats pretty well (last) week,” Dinkelman said. “We’ve got guys who can put the ball in play, steal a few bases. See if we can put up some runs. Get hits with runners in scoring position, that is how you win ballgames.”
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