Kernels Run Kane County to Death Despite Poor Weather

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Kernels' Wes Hatten (left) tries to field a ball as Kane County Cougars' Yowill Espinal slides safely into second base during the top of the first inning of their game at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Monday, April 25, 2011, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Espinal continued onto third base. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cedar Rapids Kernels keep being assured the sun will shine more than one day in a row. They keep being told the temperature will climb into more tolerable ranges, and that the home folks actually will come watch them play baseball.

Forgive them if they find it hard to believe right now. It was cold, windy, rainy and fanless again last night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Call it Groundhog Day, April style.

“This is a big adjustment,” admitted Kernels third baseman Jeremy Cruz, after his team’s 6-1 win over Kane County before a listed crowd of 506 that was probably a fifth of that actually in house. “But it’s really not that bad. It’s a mindset. Being from Florida, I’ve played in different weather before, where it’s like 90-some degrees out and 90-percent humidity. I know it’s not the same, I’d rather be playing in that weather. But you’ve just got to make the adjustment.”

That’s exactly the message their manager constantly sends them.

“We’re not the only ones out there,” Brent Del Chiaro said. “The biggest thing I tell them is don’t let the environment affect how you are going to play. The other team’s got to play in it, we’ve got to play in it. That’s part of being in the Midwest League the early part of the season. We’re going to go out and battle the elements just like we’re going to battle the other team.

“For me, if we’re tougher than the elements, we’re tougher than the opponent.”

This much is obvious. Cold, wet fired or no, these Kernels (11-6) are going to do what the parent Angels want them to do, and that’s run the bases aggressively.

For proof, they stole six bags last night, four by Travis Witherspoon, to win for the ninth time in 11 games. Witherspoon scored three runs despite going 0-for-2.

“We’ve got to put pressure on the other team, pressure on the defense,” said Del Chiaro. “It’s a wet track, but it’s also a wet ball.”

He was asked if he worried about guys slipping and injuring themselves running and stealing so much.

“I think the only time you’re getting injured is when you’re hesitating,” he said. “It’s that stop and start again when you blow out a hamstring or tweak a quadriceps. If you’re staying aggressive like it’s a dry track, then you’ll be OK.”

Suammy Baez was more than OK, giving up just four hits and a run in six innings to claim his first pitching victory. Dakota Robinson closed it out with three hitless relief frames.

Cedar Rapids outhit Kane County, 10-4, with the Cougars committing four errors.

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