Friday, December 14, 2018
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Kernels gaining momentum for playoffs

Jake Mauer has a young family waiting for him in Minnesota, but the Midwest League playoffs start Wednesday and the Kernels skipper hopes to stay with his baseball "family" in Cedar Rapids for as long as possible and take a shot at the title.

"To me it's whether I get home in a week or two weeks or three weeks. It doesn't really matter," said Mauer, who has been in Cedar Rapids since early April.

The Kernels clipped Clinton, 3-1, Sunday before 3,065 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium for their third straight victory to gain a little momentum for the playoffs.

The Kernels will host Clinton in the final game of the regular season Monday at noon, then they'll host Quad Cities in the first game of the best-of-3 playoffs Wednesday night.

Cedar Rapids struggled in August with a 12-16 record for the month, including a four-game losing streak from Aug. 14-18 and a five-game skid from Aug. 25-29, but Mauer thinks his club has found its legs again heading into the postseason tournament.

"That's what you hope, that you start playing better," he said. "We weren't too good two weeks ago. We had a tough stretch. For 10 in a row, we were bad.

"But the boys kept plugging. And hopefully we'll have a good showing tomorrow and keep that momentum carrying through."

The Kernels have won four of their last five games, but the victories have come against Wisconsin and Clinton, which have the two worst records in the Midwest League. The Kernels will be facing the best team in the league when the playoffs start against Quad Cities.

"Quad Cities has a very good club," said Mauer. "They're not going to make many mistakes. And a lot of times it's who makes the least amount of mistakes who wins those games.

"We match up pretty good with them," he said. "If we play our brand of ball and catch it, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape."

Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) in the quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday night and Friday night in Davenport.

The Kernels have a 4-9 record against Quad Cities this season, including a 2-5 record here and a 2-4 mark over there. Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities have met eight times in the playoffs since 1976, with Quad Cities winning six of those matchups and advancing.

Randy LeBlanc (9-5, 3.03 ERA) pitched six strong innings for the Kernels Sunday. He allowed one earned run on four hits, with three strikeouts and two walks. He leads the Kernels with nine wins this year.

Cedar Rapids scored all three of its runs in the sixth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit. Nick Gordon tied the game with an RBI triple, then T.J. White gave the Kernels a 2-1 lead with an RBI single. Chris Paul added an insurance run with another RBI single in the frame.

Luke Bard tossed two scoreless innings with four strikeouts for a hold. Nick Anderson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his fourth save.

The Kernels have not committed an error in their last five games, their longest error-free streak of the season. They have a team ERA of 3.23, which is very good and ranks third in the league, but their team batting average of .250 is just average.

"That's who we are. We pitch and catch it," said Mauer. "We throw it over and we catch it most of the time."

The Kernels have played 139 games this season, but Mauer thinks the club is hungry to make a good showing in the playoffs and not call it a year.

"In their stage of development, I think it's very important. You have to learn how to win," he said. "You have to be put in playoff situations. There's nothing like it. You can't simulate it, you can't duplicate it.

"On Wednesday there's only going to be eight teams left in our whole league," he noted. "So if you're one of eight, that's pretty good, but you shouldn't be satisfied with being one of the eight.

"You should want to win, you want to move forward, you want to continue."

CLINTON (1): Hebert, lf, 4 0 1 0, Cousino, cf, 3 0 0 0, Leyland, 1b, 2 1 0 0, Reynolds, dh, 4 0 0 0, Morales, rf, 4 0 1 0, DeCarlo, 3b, 2 0 0 0, Peguero, 2b, 4 0 1 1, Martin, c, 4 0 2 0, Mariscal, ss, 3 0 0 0. Totals 30 1 5 1.

KERNELS (3): Miller, 2b, 4 0 0 0, Gordon, ss, 4 1 2 1, Corcino, cf, 4 0 1 0, White, 3b, 3 1 1 1, Murphy, rf, 3 0 0 0, Real, dh, 3 0 0 0, Paul, 1b, 3 0 1 1, Doe, c, 3 0 0 0, Diemer, lf, 3 1 2 0. Totals 30 3 7 3.

Clinton   000 100 000 - 1 5 0
Kernels   000 003 00x - 3 7 0

Littell, Medina (6), Kerski (6) and Martin. LeBlanc, Bard (7), Anderson (9) and Doe. W - LeBlanc (9-5). L - Medina (5-11). S - Anderson (4). 3B - Gordon (7). T - 2:19. A - 3,065.


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