Kernels' Pitcher Spins Five Innings of No-hit Baseball in 3-1 Victory

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Austin Wood of the Kernels pitches during the first inning against Clinton at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The arm is electric. The results have been, too.

Austin Wood’s first two starts for the Cedar Rapids Kernels couldn’t have been scripted better. It’s way early, but the kid looks like an ace.

“It’s been fun,” Wood said after his five hitless innings helped his team complete a three-game sweep of Clinton, 3-1, Wednesday night before 703 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I’ve got to keep going. We’re playing really well defensively, hitting the ball well. I’m getting a lot of help.”

It’s not like he’s needed much.

A big fastball that regularly sits in the mid-90s is Wood’s best pitch. The right-hander from the University of southern California (a sixth-round pick in 2011) didn’t have a whole lot of command or control last night but still walked only two and struck out five.

In the season opener against Wisconsin last week, he struck out 10 in five innings and gave up a single run on four hits. He’s raw, for sure, but the potential is enticing.

“He’s got a strong body, a strong arm, obviously,” said Kernels pitching coach Chris Gissell. “His slider is pretty good, but right now, it’s the fastball. … Right now, he just has that overpowering fastball. And we’ve talked about using that fastball inside and outside. Learning how to use it up (in the zone).”

Wood, Joe Melioris and Stephen Tromblee combined for eight one-hit shutout innings, but Ty Kelley had to hang on in the ninth to get the save. Clinton (1-5) had the tying runs on base, with Kelley getting pinch-hitter Guillermo Pimentel to fly to the warning track in right field to end it.

Initially, it was believed the Kernels had a no-hitter going to the ninth, but a scoring change on a fly ball to right by Dan Paolini that tipped the glove of a sliding Ryan Jones in the sixth was changed from an error to a hit.

“We’ve talked about being aggressive and making the hitters hit your pitch,” Gissell said. “They’ve all done a really good job.”

Jones and Frazier Hall had RBI hits for Cedar Rapids (5-1), which begins a four-game home series against Quad Cities Thursday night.
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