Kernels Throw No-Hitter against Beloit in 9-1 win

By Jeff Johnson and Josh Christensen

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By Josh Christensen

CEDAR RAPIDS – Hi, mom.

Sorry you weren’t in Cedar Rapids to see the best game of my professional baseball career today, but I know they have great seats in heaven. Can’t tell you how much I miss you. You were always very supportive of me playing baseball, went to as many of my games as you could. Things with the Minnesota Twins are going great, so far. I’ll make it to the major leagues, just for you.

Love, Tyler.

“That was for her,” a broken-up Tyler Duffey said through tears Sunday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “It was all for her. I was thinking about her every inning. Every inning. I know she was watching.”

The Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher retired all 21 Beloit Snappers hitters he faced, carrying most of the load in a combined no-hitter, the 13th in Kernels’ history and the first since Stephen Locke’s weather-shortened, five-inning job in 2010.

Josue Montanez and Tim Atherton finished off a 9-1 victory, with Beloit scoring a run in the eighth on three walks and a sacrifice fly.

Surrounded by TV, newspaper and radio reporters postgame, Duffey cheerily answered questions about his performance. When the subject turned to his career at Rice University and eventually his mother, things got emotional.

Shanna Duffey died unexpectedly a year ago in Houston. She was just 44.

“She had breast cancer,” Tyler said. “Went through all the (treatment) for that. Ended up having some complications. She had a blood clot … She just didn’t wake up.”

A little more than a month after his mom passed, Duffey was selected by the Twins in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft. Bittersweet, for sure.

“Just tough. Tough (stuff) to deal with,” Duffey said. “But you’ve got to roll with it.”

Throwing a moving fastball, slider and changeup, he rolled through Beloit’s batting order, striking out seven and deftly fielding four comebackers. The right-hander is trying to make the conversion from reliever, and the Twins are limiting their starters in the low minor leagues to around 75 pitches in the early part of the season, so after the seventh inning, that was it.

Kernels pitching coach Gary Lucas even placed a last-ditch phone call to Twins minor-league pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen on Duffey’s behalf.

“I knew what the answer was going to be,” Lucas said.

Duffey understoood.

“I’m not trying to beat any worlds right now,” he said. “I’m just going out there and trying to do my job. (The coaching staff) has theirs to do. It’s up to everybody to make those decisions. It’s a team game. I’m not going to go out and make a fool out of myself and hurt myself the first outing.”

It was pointed out to him that a month from now, there would have been no question he’d have been allowed to pursue history.

“I was thinking that same thing. Oh, yeah,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. ”Obviously perfect games are something that’s sacred. When you’ve got a chance for it, you’d like to go for it. But you’ve got to weigh it in the whole grand scheme of things and protect that young man’s career. Hopefully things go well, he maintains his health and he gets another opportunity at it.”

The Kernels (3-1) got 15 hits, four from phenom Byron Buxton. He tripled leading off the first and scored, finishing a home run shy of the cycle.

But “Buck” was overshadowed in this one. This was Tyler Duffey’s day — and his mom’s.

“Everything today was where I wanted it,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better day on the mound.”

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