CEDAR RAPIDS — You’ve got to love the new way they go about things in extra innings!
“Of course,” laughed Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire, after his club walked off Quad Cities, 4-3, in 10 innings Saturday night in the home opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “It’s a great rule when you win.”
It took just two games for the Kernels and River Bandits to encounter minor league baseball’s new extra-inning rules. If you weren’t aware, once you get to the 10th, each team begins with a runner on second base.
It’s supposed to keep games from going the 13, 14, 15-inning route and save pitching staffs from becoming depleted. Not everyone likes it, especially the baseball purists.
Though on a night when the temperature was 35 degrees at first pitch and about 10 degrees colder than that once the 10th rolled around, even baseball purists couldn’t complain too much.
Alex Kirilloff’s sacrifice line drive scored Akil Baddoo with the winning run as the Kernels moved to 2-0.
“As a player, it takes away the (excitement) of the walk-off win a little bit,” Kirilloff said. “I don’t want to say put asterisk by it, but it kind of feels like that.”
“You end up running guys out there and out there and out there, and that’s when you can end up in trouble,” Gardenhire said. “It’s really hard to score runs in weather like this. I’ve been in games that have gone 15 or 16 innings because nobody can score. The atmosphere is like no one can score. So tonight it actually helped out that way.”
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Quad Cities tied things at 3-3 on an error with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. J.J. Matijevic began the River Bandits 10th at second, but winning C.R. reliever Ryan Mason got cleanup hitter and former Iowa Hawkeye Jake Adams to fly to center, picked off Matijevic and struck out Adrian Tovalin.
The Kernels had the luxury of speedy leadoff man Akil Baddoo at second base to begin the bottom of the 10th. Royce Lewis hit a grounder to third that Tovalin went to his left to field, but Baddoo scooted around him safely into third.
Kirilloff then hit an 0-1 pitch to left to end it.
Part of having success in extras now will be predicated on who is on second to start an inning and who is at-bat.
“Their guy they had hitting (Adams), that’s the guy you want up there in that situation,” Gardenhire said. “You know he’s not going to bunt. It helps to have a speed guy out there, for sure. We just kind of got lucky with that. That’s all part of it. I’ve heard people say you should be able to pick who’s at second base. To me, that’s going a little bit too far.”
The teams are scheduled to play again Sunday afternoon at 2:05.