CEDAR RAPIDS — When a hitter is going well, the baseball seems big. Really big.
When a pitcher is going well, the plate looks big. Really big.
And even if it seemed small, he’d be able to throw the ball over it anyway.
That’s where Bailey Ober of the Cedar Rapids Kernels is right now. He’s lights out, impenetrable, nasty.
The skyscraping right-hander struck out 10 guys over 6 2/3 shutout innings Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium in a 6-2 win over Fort Wayne. That backs up and actually betters his previous outing, a start in which he allowed a run over seven innings and struck out 12.
Those are exquisite numbers. Here’s another one: he turned 23 years old Thursday.
“I’ve really been getting ahead of guys,” Ober said. “I’m locating my fastball up, just trying to get some swings and misses underneath my fastball. I’m already a tall guy, so it creates a little bit of an angle on them. For some reason, it works out.”
At 6-foot-9, Ober has a long extension on his release and a high spin rate, to use a couple of today’s key sabermetric terms. What that means is his seemingly pedestrian 90-mile-per-hour fastball plays up.
It’s hard to believe the kid didn’t get out of the first inning of his first Cedar Rapids start back in late April. In fact, his earned-run average still was an unsightly 13.03 after three starts.
“I wasn’t expecting that. Obviously as a pitcher, that’s your worst nightmare,” said Ober, whose record is now 6-1. “But you take it one day at a time, and I took that as an opportunity just to work harder. Try to perfect some of my stuff. Just get better each and every day. I knew I’d do that if I kept grinding.”
The Kernels (46-44, 14-7) got a 4-for-4 night from Trey Cabbage, including a solo home run the other way to left-center in the second. Akil Baddoo knocked in a pair later in the inning with a double, scoring Jared Akins and Ariel Montesino, who both slid home safely.
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Montesino ran on the heels of Akins, who slid feet first and popped up, getting out of the way of his oncoming teammate, who slid head first.
There was a ceremony before the game to officially induct four new members into the Cedar Rapids Professional Baseball Club’s Hall of Fame. The inductees were former players Mike Napoli (2001-02) and Joe Sambito (1974), former player/manager Ken Blackman (1935, 1962) and contributor Wencil Stodola.
These teams conclude their three-game series Friday night at 6:35.
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