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Kernels Blow It Again In 9th, Beloit Wins Division

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa This was the rottenest of rotten timing.

After every Sunday home game this season, fans can come onto the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium and get autographs of their favorite Cedar Rapids Kernels players. But when you blow a four-run lead in the ninth inning for the second time in four days, truthfully, everyone really just wants to get back to the clubhouse ASAP.

Especially in this case, considering a shocking 10-9 loss to Peoria ended any shot at a first-half division championship.

"I don't want to be signing autographs right now, I can tell you that much," Kernels reliever Tyler Jones said. "We definitely fell flat on our face at the end."

You can say that again. The Kernels led the Midwest League's Western Division 56 consecutive days, only to have Beloit catch them and surpass them the final two days of the half.

Cedar Rapids (40-28) still clinched a playoff berth as the division wildcard, but this was one gigantic opportunity lost, and they know it. By the way, Beloit beat Clinton with a ninth-inning rally of its own Sunday, so the Snappers would have won the division regardless.

"That's the way it goes, I guess," shrugged first baseman D.J. Hicks, who had a three-hit, one-homer, six-RBI day.

"It's just a shame for these young men," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. "They battled and worked hard. Just to give it up in the last inning twice in one week ... Thank God we have three days off now, I'll tell you that."

The Kernels dropped their final four first-half games and five of their last six. The way they lost this one was especially galling and not unfamiliar. An error and three straight hits with two outs in the ninth inning allowed Quad Cities to score five ninth-inning runs Thursday night for a stunning 9-8 win.

Jones walked consecutive guys with one out in the ninth here and was replaced by Josue Montanez (1-1), who gave up a line-drive single to load the bases and a no-doubter of a game-tying grand slam to Jeremy Schaffer. After hitting the following batter, Jordan Walton, Montanez was lifted for Alex Muren, who wild pitched Walton to second and gave up Patrick Wisdom's go-ahead single to center.

"That's baseball, that's how it goes," Mauer said. "Hopefully these guys go and take a look in the mirror. We've got to make adjustments. It's not going to continue to be this way, or we're going to find other guys to pitch. It's just that simple. We can't keep walking guys. We've got to make adjustments, plain and simple."

"I feel like it's my job to close it out," Jones said. "I just feel bad for my teammates, not really myself. It's not a good way to end the half. It's going to be nice to have these days off after games like these, that's for sure."

Seven Kernels were en route Sunday night to Dayton, Ohio, for participation in Tuesday's Midwest League All-Star Game. It'll be interesting to see how many of them are still with the team when it begins second-half play Thursday at Wisconsin.

The prevailing speculation is that center fielder Byron Buxton will get promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers. First baseman Hicks, who leads the MWL with 62 RBIs, also could go.

The only move Mauer knew of Sunday was starting pitcher Hein Robb being sent back to Rookie-level Elizabethton.

"They earned a playoff spot, which I guess you can be happy about," Mauer said. "But it's just disappointing right now, without a doubt."

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