116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Early runs provided an immediate cushion, and Quad Cities went on to post a 5-0 win Sunday night in the deciding Game 5 of the High-A Central League championship series.
It’s the fourth league title in 10 years for the River Bandits, and with their third major-league organization. Quad Cities won Midwest League championships in 2011 (St. Louis Cardinals), 2013 and 2017 (Houston Astros).
This was Q.C.’s first season as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Midwest League, of course, was the forerunner of the first-year High-A Central League.
The High-A Central was created after three MWL clubs (Clinton, Burlington and Kane County) were eliminated from affiliated professional ball by Major League Baseball in the offseason and a fourth was moved to the High-A Southeast League (Bowling Green). The top two teams in the league win percentage-wise in the regular season advanced to the finals.
Cedar Rapids’ last championship came in 1994 in the Midwest League, as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.
“Just wasn’t our night,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “Gave up a couple of runs there in the first inning, so we went to the bullpen to see if we could keep the game there. Bullpen did a nice job of keeping us in the game. We just couldn’t find any runs.”
The Kernels were on the verge of the title after an 8-4 win Friday night in Game 3 here. But Quad Cities won Saturday night’s Game 4 on a walk-off solo home run by Logan Porter, and this game was all River Bandits.
It was a difficult assignment for C.R. starting pitcher Cody Laweryson, who was beaten up by Quad Cities in three regular-season appearances against it and who hadn’t thrown in 12 days overall. He had a difficult time finding the strike zone in the top of the first inning, walking two of the first three River Bandits hitters and throwing a wild pitch.
A Porter one-out RBI single and ensuing John Rave run-scoring double made it a 2-0 game and ended Laweryson’s evening. Quad Cities added another run in the second, got a solo home run by Tucker Bradley in the fourth and a fifth run in the fifth.
“(Laweryson) got off to a tough start there, had a hard time finding the strike zone,” Dinkelman said. “It’d been 12 days since he’s thrown, so we knew going in that we didn’t really know what to expect. We had plenty of guys available out of the bullpen tonight to go to ... Give him a chance and see if he could give us as many innings as he possibly could.”
Outside of Game 3, in which they had four home runs, Kernels hitters didn’t do much in this series. A Jair Camargo solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning won Game 1, 2-1, but C.R. was shut out in Game 2 (6-0) and got just a solo home run from Aaron Sabato in Game 4.
Here the Kernels were limited to just two hits, a Michael Helman single up the middle in the fourth and a one-out double in the ninth by DaShawn Keirsey Jr. They did draw seven walks but made absolutely nothing out of them, striking out 15 times against four Quad Cities pitchers.
That included starter A.J. Block, who pitched well back in Game 1 this past Tuesday. Quad Cities went with a starting rotation of five guys all season, which allowed it to bring back Block, who allowed one hit, a walk and struck out five in 3 2/3 innings Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the Kernels went with a six-man starting rotation all season, having their starters pitch once a week. That didn’t allow Game 1 starter Louie Varland, easily C.R.’s best starting pitcher since he was promoted from low-Class A Fort Myers in mid-July, to come back and pitch in this game.
“Kind of the same story tonight as it was last night,” Dinkelman said. “We had runners on all night, we just couldn’t get a hit with somebody on base to get the momentum on our side. We had baserunners, we had chances, we just couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it.”
Quad Cities was the league’s best team all season, finishing with a record of 80-43, playoffs included. Cedar Rapids got into the championship series by finishing second overall in the league, creating this unique all-Iowa series.
The teams both were in the Western Division.
The Kernels finished up 69-56, playoffs included. Cedar Rapids has been a postseason participant in all eight seasons it has been affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.
All in all, considering there was no 2020 season because of the pandemic, the return to the ballpark was a successful one for the Kernels, on and off the field.
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