CEDAR RAPIDS — This doesn’t feel like the first half. Far from it.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels won their first six games of the Midwest League season way back in early April, then sort of sputtered from there. They won their first six games of the second half, too, but haven’t sputtered this time around.
They lost to Wisconsin, 8-6, before a sold-out house of 5,195 fans on a sweltering Fourth of July at Veterans Memorial Stadium. But they made a late run in a game they really had no business being in and still have a nice and tidy 11-3 second-half record.
“The pitchers are starting to pitch well, we’re starting to play great defense, we’re getting runners on base and knocking them in,” said Kernels outfielder Akil Baddoo. “That’s really been the main thing. Hitting with runners in scoing position. Winning is fun. It’s fun when you’re winning all the time.”
As Baddoo said, the Kernels (43-40 overall) have virtually gotten it all the last two weeks. They’ve hit about .300 as a team and posted a team earned run average of around 2.50.
This was an exception pitching wise, as four Cedar Rapids hurlers combined to walk 13 Wisconsin hitters and hit another one. Six of those walks scored.
There’s your game.
“We’ve been doing a really good job of that lately,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been doing so well as a team. But you just can’t win games when you walk that many guys. To put that many baserunners out there, it’s actually amazing, a credit to our offense and how hard our guys have been playing that we were in that game until the end. When you walk 13 guys, you don’t expect it to be close. We made it close. One swing away.”
Starter Edwar Colina (3-3) took the loss, failing to get out of the fifth inning after allowing an infield hit, walking three straight and hitting a guy with the bases loaded.
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Down at the stretch, 7-2, the Kernels made it interesting with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Baddoo had three hits in the game, including a pair of triples.
Royce Lewis, who seems to be on everything at the plate right now, singled up the middle leading off the ninth, but Wisconsin reliever Robbie Hitt retired the next three Kernels to end the game. The teams play again Thursday night at 6:35.
After the game, relief pitcher Tanner Kiest was given his release by the Minnesota Twins. He had an 0-1 record, a save and 7.98 ERA in seven appearances.
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