Kernels Sweep Beloit In Front of Record Crowd
By Douglas Miles and Josh Christensen, Reporters
CEDAR RAPIDS – The Cedar Rapids Kernels appear to have solved their Beloit problem.
The Kernels took advantage of some key Beloit miscues to score three sixth-inning runs and held on for a 6-5 win in the finale of their three-game series before a lively record crowd Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Kernels donned black-and-gold jersey tops to celebrate Hawkeye Sports Night before the announced crowd of 5,879, the largest in the 12-year history of new Veterans Memorial Stadium.
After losing eight of 10 meetings with Beloit, the Kernels have swept the Snappers in a three-game series for the second time in two weeks.
"A complete turnaround," Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said.
Tied 2-2 in the sixth inning, a towering two-out double by Mike Gonzales and a walk to Travis Harrison set up Joel Licon, who delivered a liner that Beloit third baseman Renato Nunez could not handle for an RBI double. Michael Quesada appeared to ground out to second to end the inning, but a Snapper throwing error allowed Harrison and Licon to score for a 5-3 lead.
"Third baseman doesn't make a play, second baseman doesn't make a play, scores three runs, and we needed all of them," Mauer said.
Reliever Dallas Gallant struck out three in an inning-and-a-third for his first win, while Max Kepler drove in three runs with a homer and a triple. With the tying run on second, Kernels closer Madison Boer struck out Ryan Delgado for his fifth save.
After edging the Kernels by two games for the first-half Western Division title, it's been a struggle of late for Beloit (24-29 second half), losers of 24 of their last 32 games. Moline-native Dakota Bacus (9-5) took the loss.
In his second start since a brief stint on the disabled list with a forearm strain, Kernels lefty Brett Lee gave up six hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings.
"He's a guy that, first-year starter, so you've got to be a little careful," Mauer said. "We're getting up to that (innings) limit. He's going to start one of the playoff games; we'll see how it all shakes out."
Cedar Rapids (75-46, 35-18 second half) has won eight of nine overall and leads Quad Cities by 4½ games. With a playoff spot already locked up by virtue of a first-half wild card berth, Mauer anticipates resting some of his regulars during the seven-game road swing through Peoria and Quad Cities, which begins today.
"Every game you play you want to win, that should be your mentality," Mauer said. "In my opinion, I think it'd be foolish to run this team into the ground trying to win the second half compared to making sure that we're healthy and put our best foot forward for the playoffs.
Jonathan Murphy left the game in the fourth inning after being struck in the head by a Bacus pitch.
"His helmet actually split, I think that's what cut him," said Mauer, who noted that Murphy would be reevaluated today. "He wasn't woozy or anything, he wanted to keep playing. It's scary when you get hit in the head like that."
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