CEDAR RAPIDS — Eavesdropping on a conversation and with a mischievous grin on his face, outfielder Jacob Pearson was handed a tape recorder and asked if he wanted to take over a postgame interview with teammate Cole Sands in the role of reporter.
Pearson eagerly obliged.
“How different was it pitching tonight as opposed to being at Florida State?” Pearson said, holding up the recorder toward Sands.
“This is weird,” the pitcher replied, shaking his head. “The crowd was electric. Not very different, really. It was a good atmosphere today.”
And a good performance, too. A really good one.
Sands threw seven shutout innings to earn his first professional victory, 4-0, Sunday afternoon over Dayton before 2,585 fans on a near-perfect weather day (finally) at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“The last outing or two, I didn’t really have my stuff,” the 21-year-old right-hander said. “Today was about just focusing on trying to get back on track. Back to my debut. Trying to stay (like) that.”
Sands’ debut in early April consisted of five no-hit, shutout innings at Wisconsin. It’s not as if he’d been bad in his four starts since then, because he hasn’t.
But this was a thing of beauty: three harmless hits allowed, a hit batter and eight strikeouts. Only one Dayton player got as far as second base (in the entire game, actually), and he was erased in a rundown after Sands fielded a comebacker from the enusing hitter.
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“I felt like my stuff was back to where it was,” Sands said. “I’m very pleased. I had a lot of confidence in all of my pitches.”
A fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins last year out of college power Florida State, as Pearson mentioned, Sands signed for $600,000, almost double the slot value. He was shut down immediately because of biceps tendinitis that curtailed his junior season with the Seminoles.
An offseason of rest and rehabilitation ensued.
“I was kind of worried because I didn’t want this thing to creep up on me again with my arm,” Sands said. “I really concentrated every day on doing shoulder work, making sure I could get (his arm) as strong as possible. Going into spring training, my body felt great, my arm felt great. Everything was just clicking.”
The Kernels (13-16) scored twice in the first inning and again in the second to salvage the finale of this three-game series. Pearson, Gabriel Maciel and Chris Williams had two hits apiece, and David Banuelos hit his second home run of the season in the eighth.
Cedar Rapids went 2-4 on this week-long homestand and now hits the road for six games at South Bend and West Michigan.
“Some good, some bad,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said of the homestand. “I felt like we were in every game. We were one hit away in three or all four of those losses. Had a chance to win those ballgames. Yeah, there were a couple of games there where maybe we didn’t play our best, but we finished strong here and, hopefully, we can build off this game and have a good road trip.”
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