The Cedar Rapids Kernals swept rival Peoria in a best-of-three series to advance to the Midwest League semifinals, which begin today at 6:30 pm Central Time. The Kernals, who finished the regular season with a 78 and 60 record, will play the Burlington Bees, who finished the regular season with a 64 and 75 record.
Both contests against Peoria came down to an epic final inning of play. In Wednesday's game, the Kernels blew a ninth inning lead, only to come roaring back in the tenth to put Peoria away. Thursday's game was stranger: this time, it was the Kernels who entered the ninth trailing, but then scored 2 runs for a walk off victory when Peoria closer Chris Huseby issued 4 walks before plunking Mat Crawford with a slider to the ankle.
Heroes of the Peoria series include Gabe Jacobo, who went 4 for 9 with a double and a homerun; Angel Castillo, who went 3 for 8 with a homerun and 4 runs scored; Roberto Lopez, who went 3 for 8 with 2 doubles; and Will Smith, who won the initial game, giving up only 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 7. The Kernels' hereto middling offense posted a .299 team BA and scored 15 runs in the 2 game series.
The High A Quakes' road to the playoffs was among the most improbable in league history...
The Quakes went an underwhelming 61 and 79, qualifying for postseason play on a wildcard technicality. Nevertheless, the Quakes beat the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2 straight games last week to advance to the second round, even though they had lost 20 times to the Storm over the course of the regular season.
Heroes include lefty starter Manuel Flores, who shut Lake Elsinore down over 7 scoreless innings in the second game of the series; Clay Fuller, who swatted a crucial Quakes' homerun in the first game of the series, and added an RBI double in the ninth to help push the Quakes over the top in the second game; and Michael Kohn, who pitched two scoreless ninth innings to earn himself a pair of saves. As a team, the Quakes hit a solid .290 on the series with 2 HR's, 2 triples, and six doubles.
The Quakes begin their second series tonight at 7:05 pm, facing off against offensive juggernaut High Desert.
The Orem Owlz begin their first playoff series tonight against Dodgers' affiliate Ogden. Orem led all Angels' affiliates and advanced rookie ball teams with a .671 winning percentage, going 51 and 25 on the year. They were unbeatable in the second half, going 31 and 7.
In related news, Owlz first baseman Dillon Baird won the Pioneer League batting title, hitting .372 and besting Ogden third baseman Brian Ruggiano, who ended the season with a .371 BA. Owlz catcher Carlos Ramirez hit .376 on the season, but his 149 at-bats were not enough to qualify him for the honors.