Clinton Races To 8-2 Win Over Kernels; Deciding Game 3 Tonight
By Jeff Johnson, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Not trying to sound too cliche here, but it comes down to this.
It's an all-or-nothing deal, one game for all the marbles. Win and keep playing, or lose and make tee times.
OK, that's really cliche. But it's also truth for the Cedar Rapids Kernels after dropping Game 2 of their first-round Midwest League playoff series to Clinton last night at Memorial Stadium, 8-2.
"Do or die tomorrow," said Kernels third baseman Michael Wing. "Win or go home. We want to stay around as long as we can and win a championship."
We're tied at a game apiece in this best-of-3 series with the decider tonight here at 6:35. The pitching matchup is left-hander Stephen Locke for the Kernels and righty Erasmo Ramirez for the L-Kings.
Locke went 1-1 in two starts against Clinton in the regular season, while Ramirez lost his lone start against Cedar Rapids. The Kernels will be facing a guy, however, who was the right-handed starter on the MWL's postseason all-star team.
"Nobody said it was going to be easy," said Kernels Manager Bill Mosiello.
"I've always been excited about having everybody look to me," Locke said. "I kind of thrive in situations like that. I've pitched in big games throughout my whole career, so it won't be anything new. This is a big game, but nothing changes. It's still the same game. You've got to throw strikes, get ahead, get ground balls, get your team off the field quick."
Cedar Rapids won Wednesday night's Game 1, 3-2, but got behind early in this one and never caught up. Clinton scored three times in the second inning and once in the third against starting pitcher Buddy Boshers.
The LumberKings didn't necessarily hit the ball hard in the second but picked up four consecutive two-out singles. Vinnie Catricala's solo home run to left in the third was a no-doubter.
"We just didn't pitch real well," Mosiello said. "Yet we were still in the ballgame."
It was a 5-2 game, in fact, in the seventh when Wing lined a shot to the right-center gap with two on and two out that appeared certain to be a two-run double or triple. But Clinton center fielder Matt Cerione got a good jump on the ball, ranged far to his left and made a terrific all-out diving catch to deny Wing and the Kernels.
The LumberKings scored once in the eighth and twice in the ninth to end all doubt.
"I think the wind held it up a little bit," Wing said. "He made a good catch. That just kind of killed our momentum."
Clinton outhit the Kernels by a 13-6 margin. Starting pitcher Yoervis Medina threw six innings – as did Boshers – to get the win.
The Kernels will have to figure out a way to get Clinton leadoff hitter James Jones out. He went 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs and an RBI. He has been a major catalyst in these two games, reaching base eight of 10 times.