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Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Jon Olsen gets a victory that was a long time coming
Almost 40 months between wins for right-hander, who helps blank Beloit, 1-0
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’d been so long, you wondered if Jon Olsen could recall his last official pitching victory.
“It’d had to have been Michigan State my junior year. Is that it?” Olsen said, after the Cedar Rapids Kernels beat Beloit, 1-0, Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It was, all the way back on March 3, 2018. A week later, the former UCLA Bruins right-hander got hit in the face with a line drive off the bat of an opposing hitter, thus beginning a whole mess of tribulations that would have demoralized any baseball player.
Olsen had multiple surgeries on his face, came back, blew out his elbow, had surgery for that and then thoracic outlet syndrome surgery after experiencing shoulder problems. Then there was the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled last season.
The parent Minnesota Twins drafted Olsen in 2018, and he made his professional debut this season. He’d made 11 previous appearances for the Kernels, including nine starts, until finally getting back in the ol’ ‘W’ column, almost 40 months later.
By the way, Olsen’s previous victory came when UCLA played a series at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Some cool symmetry there.
“It’s been a long time, a long time in the making,” Olsen said. “I feel like the last outings, I’ve been close. I’d give up one or two runs on one pitch, feel like I’d have one pitch I’d like to take back. It’s something, I think, that wins are just a byproduct of doing things right (as a pitcher). It’s not the biggest deal in the world. But wins are always nice, the icing on the cake. That’s what you want to go out and do for your team.”
Olsen went 5 1/3 innings here, giving up just a pair of hits, a pair of walks and striking out five. He has had six consecutive starts of at least five innings but no more than 5 2/3 innings, as he is eased back into things.
His earned run average dropped to 3.40 this season. Breckin Williams and Zach Featherstone finished things up, as the Kernels (38-31) turned around the same result of Wednesday night’s game here.
“There are obviously ups and downs. That’s just like any other season,” Olsen said. “You have times where you don’t feel great, times where you feel good … With all the injuries I’ve had, it’s not going to be smooth sailing. But you keep competing, keep grinding through your first full season. That’s all that matters. Health is the biggest thing.”
“Continues to mix his pitches well,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He has put up a lot of zeroes.”
Cedar Rapids got its only run in the fifth, when Seth Gray was hit by a pitch leading off, went to second on a wild pickoff attempt and scored on Michael Helman’s two-out RBI single to center field. Kernels hitters struck out 12 times after whiffing 19 times Wednesday night.
The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.
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