C.R. Native Christensen Homers Twice in Kernels Win

By Jeff Johnson, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — It took him 36 games and 150 plate appearances to get his first home run as a Cedar Rapids Kernel. Then it took Chad Christensen zero and one, respectively, for his second.

What a Monday night for the hometown hero, the best of his young professional baseball career.

You can’t beat back-to-back two-run home runs and a 4-for-4 game, especially in front of a Veterans Memorial Stadium crowd that included his mom, dad and younger brother. Throw in another run scored, a stolen base, a flawless performance defensively in center field and a 6-3 win over Beloit, and this one was one to remember.

“Just got some good pitches over the plate,” the Cedar Rapids Washington grad said. “Tried to be aggressive with them, and the ball got out of the yard a few times.”

Christensen hit three homers in Rookie ball last season, so going yard is not a foreign concept. His first one Monday night didn’t come without a little bit of controversy, however.

With one on and one out in the top of the first inning, Christensen hooked a ball down the left-field line that home-plate umpire Josh Root ruled foul. Kernels Manager Jake Mauer immediately protested and appealed to base umpire Kirk Struble, who was standing at second base at the time and didn’t have nearly as good an angle looking at the ball.

The umps convened and reversed the call. Christensen, who was standing on the infield grass between first and second, trotted back to the bases and touched them all.

“I thought that was for sure fair,” Christensen said. “Jake thought it was for sure fair. I’m just glad they got it right. I know it can be a tough call sometimes when it’s that close. I don’t know what they talked about, but I think they got it right.”

There were no questions about his second home run, another bullet to left off a hanging curveball from losing pitcher Ronald Herrera (2-3) that landed on the deck. That was in the third inning.

Christensen looped a single to right-center in the fifth and lined a single up the middle in his final at-bat in the seventh.

“It was good, been quite a long time without hitting a home run,” he said. “You just have to try and keep having good at-bats, keep executing the situations in the game. Home runs aren’t everything.”

Shortstop Ryan Walker also had a four-hit game for the Kernels (21-23), who won a second straight after ending an eight-game losing streak Sunday. Starter Josue Montanez (1-2) got the pitching win, with Hudson Boyd throwing the final two innings for his sixth save.

“Everyone has just got to be better,” Mauer said before the game. “There are going to be some games when you’re not hitting or not pitching, but you’ve got to pick each other up.”

The teams play again Tuesday at noon. Kohl Stewart, the parent Twins’ top draft pick last year, is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for Cedar Rapids.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@sourcemedia.net

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