Kernels Rally from 7 Down to Topple Wisconsin
By Jeff Johnson, reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It counts in the first-half standings, but it might just wind up benefiting the Cedar Rapids Kernels more in the second half. Much more.
The Kernels somehow rallied from a 7-0 hole to stun the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, 8-7, in 10 innings Friday night before 3,427 loud and proud fans on Hawkeye Night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Justin Bass scored the winning run on a one-out wild pitch, of all things. A recording of “In Heaven There Is No Beer” followed, naturally.
Bass had three hits in his return to town after being demoted Friday from high-Class A Inland Empire in the California League. He looks to bring a boost to a club in need of a boost after a poor stretch of play left it an also-ran in the first half of the Midwest League season.
“They showed a lot of heart, a lot of character tonight,” said Kernels Manager Brent Del Chiaro. “We talked before the game that we’re treating this three-game series as our playoffs … I challenged them. This is for all the marbles. If we can’t get into the playoffs, they’re not going to get into the playoffs.”
It’s Wisconsin that’s got everything to play for this final three-game series, as it tries to catch Quad Cities for second place and the final playoff spot in the Western Division. The Timber Rattlers (37-31) dropped to a game and a half behind the River Bandits with this crushing defeat.
Wisconsin’s urgency showed early as it ran to a touchdown lead after three and a half innings, splashing nine hits, three home runs. But instead of rolling over, the Kernels (31-37) fought.
They scored five times in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to 7-5. The game stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth, when the Kernels unexpectedly tied it against T-Rats closer Greg Holle.
It was unexpected because Holle leads the MWL in saves (15) and hadn’t blown one all season. Marcus Nidiffer scored the tying run with two outs on — what else? — a wild pitch.
Bass led off the 10th with a line-drive single to left. He went to second on a wild pitch (of course) and to third when Brandon Decker pulled a grounder to second base. Wes Hatton was intentionally walked to set up a potential inning-ending double play.
Losing pitcher Stosh Wawrzasek got ahead of Jesus Campos in the count 1-2, but buried a curve well short of the plate, off catcher Tyler Roberts and to the backstop.
“That was a fun game to play in,” Bass said.
Well, at least the ending was fun to play in.
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