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.”
Jonathan Murphy delivered a three-run home run in a four-run eighth that extended the lead to 14-2, but Guerrero responded in kind as Clinton scored four in the bottom half. It was the second day in a row that Guerrero homered, as he raised his season total to four.
“I see the ball pretty well, and I’m trying to do my best,” Guerrero said.
Shank followed Guerrero with his first home run as a LumberKing to make it 14-6, providing some positive energy.
“Those back-to-back home runs by Guerrero and Shank showed a little bit of life,” Menchaca said.
Guerrero’s home run and solid pitching from Blake Holovach, Mark Bordonaro and Oliver Garcia keyed the LumberKings in a 3-1 win against Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Clinton’s third win in four days.
“At this point you’re just trying to make sure everyone is healthy and finishes the season strong, giving everybody at-bats, finish on a good note and get some momentum heading into the playoffs,” Menchaca said.
The LumberKings have an off-day today before beginning the Midwest League playoffs with a 6:30 p.m. home game against Beloit on Wednesday to open a best-of-three series.
More photos See more photos from Monday's game in a photo gallery at Clintonherald.smugmug.com.