Minor League Sports

Bailey Ober throws a gem, Jared Akins gets his first hits as Cedar Rapids Kernels roll past Wisconsin

CEDAR RAPIDS — When you get promoted to a new level and you don’t get a hit in your first game, it’s not that big a deal.

When your second game goes like your first, you still brush it off. When it gets to be your third, fourth and fifth games and you’re o-fer, that’s when it gets tough.

So you could feel the weight of the world come off the shoulders of Jared Akins when he reached on an infield single to shortstop in the second inning Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. It was the outfielder’s first hit in 20 at-bats since joining the Cedar Rapids Kernels last week from Rookie ball.

It very well could have led to his next hit in his next at-bat an inning later, a triple to the gap that essentially put his team over the top in an 8-1 win over Wisconsin.

“That felt really good,” Akins said. “I was struggling when I first got up here. To come up in a clutch situation like that and score three runs, that was good.”

The 21-year-old lefty swinger from Fresno State was hitting a ton the first week of the Appalachian League season for Elizabethton, which earned him his promotion to low-Class A. But it’s a jump to the Midwest League, which Akins found out.

He had a positive game Wednesday night, reaching base for the first time on a walk and grounding out sharply to shortstop in another AB. Then there was this.

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“Baseball is a game of failure,” he said. “We’re going to fail, we’re going to struggle. You’ve just got to keep your head up. I’ve had to stay strong, make adjustments. I’ve been hitting in the cage a lot. That’s about it. I knew things would turn around.”

“He got up here and had a couple tough games in a row, and he started pressing, I’m sure,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “It’s hard. You come up here, and you are hoping to do good things, trying to prove yourself to everyone. Makes it tough. Then the more outs you make, the harder it gets.”

Jordan Gore had a three-run home run for the Kernels (44-40 overall, 12-3 in the second half) in support of starting pitcher Bailey Ober. The 6-foot-9 right-hander was dominant, allowing just three hits and a run in seven innings and striking out a career-high 12.

Ober’s fastball doesn’t generally get much faster than 90 miles per hour, but, with his height, he’s got a long extension on his release. And his heater has the appearance of rising, though it doesn’t, obviously.

“He’s got a high spin rate,” Manager Toby Gardenhire said. “Back before you had all of these analytics, guys would just say that his fastball gets on you. It gets on you quick. You don’t realize it’s coming as quick as it does. Now with all of the analytical stuff, we realize it’s because his ball is spinning faster.”

The Kernels hit the road for four games at Kane County, returning home Wednesday against Fort Wayne.

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

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