Walker Hits 2 More HRs, Kernels Fall To Bowling Green

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

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By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - This RBI race is going to be really fun to watch the final month and a half of the Midwest League season.

Coming up hard on the outside is Adam Brett Walker, who hit two home runs and drove in three in a 6-5 loss Monday afternoon to Bowling Green before 3,136 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

He actually set a torrid early pace but lost his stride as teammate D.J. Hicks caught him and surpassed him and everyone else in minor-league baseball. Now Walker is closing back in on the lead.

"Ever since we put him back in that four hole, the middle of the lineup, he's been on a tear," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer.

Hicks still leads the MWL with 82 RBIs, but Walker suddenly is right behind him with 79. He has taken over the league lead with 18 home runs, including a majestic solo shot down the left-field line in the fourth inning Monday and a line-drive two-run job in the eighth.

The latter brought the Kernels (56-36, 16-8 second half) within 6-5, but they stranded the tying run at second base and winning run at first in the ninth.

"I think it's good to have somebody hitting right in front of you and trying to chase them down," Walker said. "I mean, it's fun. We want the best for each other. We want each other to do well. As a competitor, of course I want to catch him. But it's all for fun."

In his last five games, Walker is 9 for 19 with 12 RBIs. He has six home runs and 19 RBIs in 14 July games.

What's so fun about watching the chiseled 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Jacksonville University is when he hits a ball square, it goes a long way. A long, long way.

Even his fouls lately have been touched. For instance, he lined a shot that was hit so hard Monday it ricocheted off the grass berm down the third-base line, through the hands of several people sitting in the left-field picnic area and finally to a guy standing right behind the left-field foul pole.

"Right now, I'm just trying to see the ball well," Walker said. "That's the main thing. Try and get everything else out of the way and see the ball. I'm just trying to hit it hard. For awhile there, maybe I wasn't striking out as much, but I just wasn't hitting the ball as hard as I would have liked."

Starting pitcher Jose Berrios' recent struggles continued, as he gave up five runs in five-plus innings. In his last three starts, the highly touted teenager has allowed 11 runs in 13 innings.

On the positive pitching side, Hudson Boyd threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The deposed starter has not given up an earned run in five relief appearances.

"I was just thinking too much," Boyd said. "Now as a reliever, I'm thinking 'What's the worst that can happen? They get a hit?' As a starter, I think I was trying to avoid the strike zone a little bit. Be a little too perfect."

The Kernels have Tuesday off, then begin a three-game series at Lake County on Tuesday night.

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