Snappers Avoid Sweep, Edge Kernels 5-4

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - They’ve played exactly a month’s worth of games and have exactly one hitter over the .300 mark. But you’ll never guess who it is.

Eventually you’ll get around to Ricky Alvarez, but he’s not your first choice. Kind of the story of his baseball career so far.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels infielder had two more hits in Monday afternoon’s 5-4 10-inning loss to Beloit at Veterans Memorial Stadium to raise his batting average to .309. It’s a surprising metamorphosis for a guy in his second organization.

“I’ve been feeling good at the plate,” Alvarez said.

That’s obvious. Alvarez, 22, didn’t even play the first two games this season but took over at first base full time when Brandon Decker was injured opening week.

Decker is back, but Alvarez is still playing virtually every day, mostly at DH. A 37th-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2007, Alvarez was released less than a year later, then picked up by the Angels.

From Tijuana, Mexico, he went to high school in Chula Vista, Calif.

“I was 16 when we moved,” Alvarez said. “My family wanted me to have the best opportunity to play baseball (professionally). They made a big sacrifice.

“After I got released by the Mets, the Angels called me almost right away. It wasn’t very long, maybe a week. I feel like I’m getting a second chance.”

The Kernels (20-11) fell behind Monday, 4-0, but rallied to tie with a four-run eighth. They’ve played every team in the Midwest League’s Western Division now and appear as good as any of them, despite ranking ninth in batting average and fifth in ERA.

“Our pitching has obviously picked up in quality,” said Kernels Manager Brent Del Chiaro.“They’ve made the adjustment of getting ahead in counts and throwing good quality strikes in the zone. Then if you look at our situational hitting, runners in scoring position, with the bases loaded, runners in scoring position with two outs, we’re (doing well). So when we’re getting guys on, we’re getting them in when it counts.”

Cedar Rapids begins a weeklong road trip at Wisconsin.

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