CEDAR RAPIDS — They didn’t go quietly, which was no surprise. But the Cedar Rapids Kernels did go Monday night.
Into the offseason.
Clinton scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back in taking a 6-2 win over the Kernels in the decisive Game 3 of the Midwest League Western Division championship series.
The LumberKings play South Bend in the best-of-5 finals that begins Wednesday night in Indiana. The Kernels packed up their gear and awaited travel itineraries home, knowing they had another good summer.
This was the seventh straight year as a Minnesota Twins affiliate and the seventh straight year Cedar Rapids qualified for the playoffs. No small feat.
It also was the sixth year in a row the Kernels won their first-round series.
“Just proud of the way they competed all year and came back late in games,” said Manager Brian Dinkelman. “They never gave up. Even the first half, we got behind early in the standings but fought our way back and made the playoffs late. Here in the second half, coming back late in games to win. It just kind of shows the character of the guys, not giving up and playing all the way to the end.”
The Kernels scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk off Clinton in Sunday night’s dramatic Game 2. There were no such heroics here, as Clinton got three consecutive two-out RBI hits to chase starting pitcher Tyler Palm and went on from there.
Cedar Rapids did get a run back in the third but stranded the bases loaded. Each team scored in the fifth to make it a 4-2 game, with the Kernels having their first two hitters in the sixth reach, only to have them never move from first and second.
Clinton got a pair of unearned insurance runs in the seventh.
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“Everybody wants to go to the championship game, everybody was bringing their all tonight,” said outfielder Tyler Webb, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI here and who was 10-for-17 with five walks in the postseason. “We put up a good fight, just fell short. One hit away. It just didn’t go our way tonight. That’s just how baseball is, you know?”
“They got that three spot in the first. Palm couldn’t get that third out,” Dinkelman said. “We clawed back, had chances in the middle of the game. Had guys on base, the tying run at the plate. Just couldn’t get that big hit tonight when we needed it.”
The Kernels qualified for the playoffs with a runner-up finish in the Western Division in the first half. They went 81-65 overall, playoffs included.
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