SPORTS

LaMonte Wade continues torrid start as Cedar Rapids Kernels topple Clinton, 7-3

Outfielder at .400 a week into the Midwest League season

CEDAR RAPIDS — The mustache has returned.

“It had to,” LaMonte Wade said, after his Cedar Rapids Kernels beat Clinton, 7-3, Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The outfielder arrived in town from spring training with the rest of his teammates early last week with a hairy upper lip. He shaved before the season opener, but perhaps it’s the cold weather that has persuaded him to grow it again.

The ‘stache is back. Wade’s hitting never left.

His average is a cool .400 a week into the Midwest League season (12 for 28). That included a 2-for-4 night here.

Last year’s ninth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins has been on virtually everything. Even his outs are loud, as his final at-bat was a bullet over the pitcher’s head but directly into a shifted shortstop’s glove.

“It feels good off the bat, but then you see he’s right there with that shift, and it doesn’t feel good,” Wade said. “As long as I’m putting the ball in play hard, I’m happy with that.”

He has definitely been doing that. The lefty swinger and former Maryland Terrapin lit it up at Rookie-level Elizabethton last summer after signing, then was promoted to Cedar Rapids the final weekend of the regular season, forced by injury to play a major role in the Kernels’ run to the final game of the MWL playoffs.

He said that experience, albeit brief, has helped him get off to a hot start.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Just getting some good pitches to hit and being aggressive with them. Just trying to do the best I can. Last year helped a lot. Coming back, you know what to expect. I played in the league for a little while, maybe three weeks when I came up here. I got to know the atmosphere and everything, for sure. Get acquainted with things.”

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“I think he was running on fumes and gutted it out here last year, with his college season starting in January,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “LaMonte has probably been our most consistent guy approach wise. He has put a charge in a few, should have a few home runs. Those will come. He just continues to put together good at-bats and drive in runs.”

Going into Thursday night’s game, he and teammate Chris Paul were hitting a combined .366, with the rest of the Kernels at .175. Paul got the call to high-A Fort Myers because of an injury at Double-A Chattanooga to former Kernels shortstop Engelb Vielma.

Infielder Manuel Guzman replaces Paul on the active roster, coming in from extended spring training. It was encouraging to see other guys join Wade with good night’s offensively, especially second baseman Luis Arraez.

The 19-year-old had an 11-pitch AB to start the game for Cedar Rapids, lofting a drive onto the porch in left field for his first professional home run. Arraez ended 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.

Rafael Valera and Sean Miller also had two hits apiece for the Kernels (6-2). Starter Andro Cutura (2-0) shook off a lack of control early and went the first six innings to get the pitching win.

The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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