Kernels Lose Their Lead and Lose to Wisconsin

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Jeff Johnson
Multi-media sports reporter for SourceMedia in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has covered it all over the past 20-plus years. Particularly [...]
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Updated: 5 July 2013 | 10:53 pm in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Diamonds and Ice by Jeff Johnson, Kernels Top Story, Uncategorized
Kernels let one get away to Wisconsin, 8-7

7th-inning grand slam wins it for Rattlers; Kernels' Williams finished double shy of the cycle

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CEDAR RAPIDS – Steve Gruver has been very, very good this season for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He's been the club's most consistent relief pitcher, without a doubt.

So cut the guy some slack when it comes to the grand slam he allowed in the seventh inning Friday night that gave the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers a 8-7 win over the Kernels before 3,193 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

"Just one pitch I wish I could have back," said Gruver, who ended up throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings after that.

That was the 0-1 cutter inner half to Tyrone Taylor that was blasted into the night to left field. Gruver – who came in with an earned run average a shade over 2.00 – relieved Kaleb Merck after he walked in a run with two outs, looking to do what he has been so good at, namely snuffing an opponent's rally.

It just didn't happen this time.

"It was the same pitch I threw on the first pitch," Gruver said. "I just left it up, somewhere where he could hit it."

Merck (1-1) ended up taking the loss. The Kernels (52-31, 12-3 second half) ended up blowing a 6-2 lead after five innings.

"Yep, threw up all over ourselves there, to say the least," Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said.

It looked throughout most of this game like the only drama would be if J.D. Williams of the Kernels would complete the hitting cycle. He homered about a third of the way up the batter's eye in dead center to lead off the first inning, tripled home a run in his next at-bat in the third and had an RBI single to right in the fourth.

He had three cracks at baseball's most coveted hitting feat, but grounded to second, walked and struck out in that order. Williams was asked what would have happened had he hit a ball into the right-field corner in one of those three at-bats.

He's arguably the Kernels' most fleet-footed guy.

"I would have tried to go to third," he said, with a smile.

Williams boosted his batting average to .294 as the team's replacement leadoff hitter for the promoted Byron Buxton.

"He's doing a nice job," Mauer said. "He's gotten a lot better from last year, no doubt. He's going to continue to hit leadoff for us."

Max Kepler went 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs for Cedar Rapids, though he struck out with the bases loaded in his final at-bat in the eighth.

Cedar Rapids heads to the road for a weekend series at Clinton before returning home Wednesday for a series against the Dayton Dragons.
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