CLINTON — It was easy on Monday to see why Cedar Rapids compiled the best record in the Midwest League this season.
In a game that meant little for two teams headed to the playoffs, the Kernels exploded after Clinton made things interesting in the fourth and finished the regular season with a 15-6 victory at Ashford University Field.
“You still want to go out there and compete,” Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said. “It was a close game and they had that one inning where they scored seven.”
Cedar Rapids never trailed after right fielder Adam Brett Walker II blasted his league-leading 27th home run over the center-field fence in the top of the second inning. He doubled in another run in the fourth, and then scored on an error to make it 3-0.
Gaby Guerrero, who has been Clinton’s version of Walker the past two days, got Clinton right back in the game in the bottom half. He followed a leadoff single by Taylor Ard with a run-scoring triple, then scored on Zach Shank’s sacrifice fly to make it 3-2 in the bottom half of the inning.
But, just as it appeared Clinton would make a game of it, the Kernels dismissed that idea.
The Kernels sent eight batters to the plate against starter Steven Ewing and two more against reliever Jochi Ogando in a seven-run fifth that broke the game open.
Jorge Polanco hit a two-run double, Max Kepler had an RBI single, Walker drove in his 109th run of the year with a sacrifice fly and Tyler Grimes hit an RBI double against Ewing, and Michael Quesada capped the inning with a two-run single off Ogando.
“The seven-run inning (makes) it tough for us to come back,” Guerrero said. “We try but we can’t do it.”