BELOIT, Wis. — The first game of a short playoff series always is important. Even more so in this case.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels received two home runs from Ryan Jeffers and a pinch-hit grand slam from Trey Cabbage in a 10-1 win Thursday night over Beloit in Game 1 of the Midwest League Western Division semifinals at Pohlman Field.
The best-of-3 series shifts to Veterans Memorial Stadium for Game 2 and perhaps Game 3 Friday night. A rainout here Wednesday night set up a highly unique potential postseason double-header.
Game 2’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m., Game 3 would immediately follow, if necessary, with both being seven innings.
“They just want to keep the league on pace, and if we play two on Friday, it keeps the second round as is,” said Kernels General Manager Scott Wilson. “And the weather looks terrific for the rest of it, so they’re trying to get caught up.”
If you subscribe to the theory that it’s especially difficult to sweep a double-header, this C.R. victory was humongous.
“It was really important. This was a big game tonight,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “To be able to get the first one, especially with a (potential) double-header the next day, it’s always tough going in knowing you’ve got to win two games. So this was nice, a big win. Always important to get the first one.””
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“It’s always important to win Game 1,” Jeffers said. “But it’s a lot harder to win a double-header than it is to win two games in two different days. So, basically, the way we felt, was if you win this game, you have a very high chance to move on.”
Jeffers led off the second inning with a home run to left-center field against Beloit starting and losing pitcher Jared Poche. A batter later, Gabriel Maciel connected on a homer to left.
Two more runs in the third chased Poche. Beloit hung around until Cabbage hit the first pitch he saw from Snappers reliever Joseph Camacho over the fence in right to essentially put the game away, 8-1.
Jeffers added a two-run homer in the ninth. He went 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs.
“It was great,” Jeffers said. “Everybody in the lineup did a good job today. One guy would kind of hand off the baton to the next guy, who was doing what he could to get on, get over and get in.”
Kernels starting pitcher Jhoan Duran, who joined the Kernels with Maciel from Kane County of the MWL in a late June trade between the parent Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks, allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in six innings of work. Johan Quezada and Rickey Ramirez finished up in relief.
These teams finished the regular season against each other last weekend in Beloit, with the Snappers winning the final two games of a three-game series to gain entry to the playoffs.
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