Williams Comes Up With Big Hit For Kernels

By Jeff Johnson, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS – He either had common sense, grand intuition or a lot of guts. Perhaps Jake Mauer had some of all three.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager sent up a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning of a tie game Tuesday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium, deciding to substitute for a guy who was 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI.

Hey, don’t doubt the man. J.D. Williams pulled a groundball single past first base to score the two runs the Kernels needed to top Beloit, 4-2, before 3,002 fans on a long-awaited beautiful day for baseball.

“Having a guy like J.D. on the bench (was nice),” Mauer said. “Tried to give him a day off today, and it just kind of worked out to where he was available.”

Williams has played a lot more professional baseball than Carlos Avila, for whom he hit. He was batting from the left side against right-handed relief pitcher Blake McMullen, as opposed to the righty swinging Avila.

So maybe this move was a no brainer. Still, when you take out a dude who hasn’t made an out …

“It’s funny how this game works,” Mauer said. “High on the hog one day, you’ve got three hits, then all of a sudden, somebody is in for you. But J.D. was ready. Thought maybe Carlos was a guy that hits the ball on the ground a little more. J.D. can hit a ball in the air, maybe get a sacrifice fly there. He’s kind of been in there a little bit more, has more experience.”

“Just a changeup down and in,” Williams said. “I struggled with offspeed pitches yesterday, so I figured they were going to go there. I just tried to stay up the middle and got a knock out of it.”

Williams could be seen stretching his legs in the dugout as the Kernels began the bottom of the eighth. Bo Altobelli singled through the left side with one out and went to third on B.K. Santy’s double to left-center.

Ivory Thomas was intentionally walked to fill the bases.

“I actually was told to get loose to run,” Williams said. “I thought I was going to pinch run for Santy, but he ended up hitting a double, so I didn’t have to. At the last minute, he told me to get up and hit, so I got a few swings in.”

It’s the third win in a row for the Kernels (22-23), following an eight-game losing streak. The teams play the final game of their three-game series Wednesday night at 6:35.

This was another good outing for Cedar Rapids starting pitcher Kohl Stewart. The top prospect, the fourth-overall pick in last year’s draft, gave up just four hits and a run in six innings.

His earned run average has dropped to 2.21, and he has allowed just 27 hits in 40 2/3 innings. The parent Minnesota Twins are continuing to treat him with kid gloves, as he again threw just 75 pitches Tuesday.

“We’re hoping, selfishly, that we’ll be able to see him go a little bit longer here,” Mauer said. “Because he’s been healthy, he’s felt great, done a lot of positive things staying healthy. Weather’s warming up, you’d like to see him maybe stretch out a little bit. But we’ve got to follow the guidelines, too. Ball was coming out (of his hand) real good today. And I think you’ll see more of that.”

Mauer said the Kernels will activate shortstop Engelb Vielma (hamstring) and outfielder Jason Kanzler (concussion) from the disabled list Wednesday. Corresponding roster moves were not publicly announced, though Santy and Avila said they have been released from the Twins organization.

Santy went 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs Tuesday, hitting .204 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 15 games for the Kernels. Avila went 3-for-9 with two RBIs in three games.

“What a way 2 go out,” Santy said on Twitter. “A couple knocks and a win with the boys. I want 2 thank the Twins for giving me a shot. Made it farther than most thot (thought).”

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

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