CEDAR RAPIDS – Engelb Vielma’s skills on the baseball diamond are hereditary, but not from the family member you might think.
It’s not his dad, but mom, Iria, who always was the big-time ballplayer in Venezuela.
“My mom played softball,” said Vielma, who went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ 10-5 win Friday night over Wisconsin before 3,749 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “That’s where my genes come from. She taught me how to play growing up. Every day.”
Iria, you have done well. Your boy, a switch-hitting infielder, has raised his batting average to a respectable level, especially considering his age (19).
He has hit over .300 in May and is at .258 this season after this career-type game. He singled to right-center in his first at-bat, singled to center and scored a run in the fourth, hit a sacrifice fly to left in the fifth, singled through the right side to bring home a pair of runs in the sixth and capped it all off with an RBI single in the eight.
“I am more focused now than I was before,” Vielma said, with the help of Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga. “My focus is back.”
Vielma’s calling card always has been his defense. He was the Kernels’ most-days shortstop until injuring a hamstring and landing on the disabled list a couple weeks ago.
He played second base Friday night, giving Cedar Rapids a strong up-the-middle defensive infield presence with Ryan Walker. He went 2-for-5 to help the Kernels (26-29) rally from a 4-0 hole and win the rubber match of a three-game series.
Burlington comes to town for a 5:05 p.m. game Saturday.
“He has shortened up (his swing) a little bit,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “Not trying to be Superman, trying to hit the ball over the fence. He’s a young man who is maybe 150 pounds soaking wet … He knows where the barrel is, and when he gets bigger and stronger, he’s going to drive the ball some. He’s just got to the keep the approach he’s had. Hit the ball up the middle.”
Vielma signed with the parent Minnesota Twins as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2011. He played Rookie ball last season in the Gulf Coast League and with Elizabethton.
“We’ve just been trying to flatten (his swing) out,” Mauer said. “Not be so much uphill.”
“Every day, I practice (using) the top hand with (hitting coach) Tommy (Watkins),” Vielma said without translation assistance. “He tells me ‘Top hand, top hand, top hand.’”
The Kernels got a big three-run home run from Michael Quesada in the fourth inning to tie things at 4-4. Vielma’s sac fly put them ahead for good in the fifth, with a three-run eighth putting the game out of reach.
All nine Kernels starters reached base via hit or walk. Ivory Thomas was the only guy not to get a hit, and he walked three times.
Starting pitcher Ethan Mildren (1-3) allowed five runs in six innings but recorded his first Kernels win. Brandon Bixler and Hudson Boyd combined for three shutout relief innings.