Cedar Rapids Kernels Win First Midwest League Title Since 1994
The Kernels took down the Peoria Chiefs two games to three and won the Midwest Championship after taking two out of three from the Great Lakes Loons to capture their first Midwest League Title since 1994.
Original Post Published: September 6, 2023
The Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Minnesota Twins High A Ball club is vying for a chance to win their first League Championship since the 1994 season. Teams have played in Cedar Rapids since 1890 and they have seen 13 name changes, with the last one in 1993, when they became the Kernels. The 1994 team was an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels and if they win this season, it would be the first as a Twins affiliate.
In all they have won 13 League Titles, with their last first half title in 2022 when they finished 43-23. But a second half drop off, saw them at 30-35, to finish in fourth place. Overall in 2022, they finished at 73-58, but lost in the semi-final matchup to the South Bend Cubs, who also went on to claim their second crown in three seasons.
The 2023 season, has turned out to be a much better one for the Kernels, as they won the first half title with a 40-26 record and have eliminated the competition in the West division with a 41-20 record. The MiLB rules for the postseason are that, whatever four teams finish top two in each division will advance to the playoffs, but in the event that a team wins outright both teh first and second half of the season, then the second team will be the one with the next best winning percentage in the second half will advance. With five games to go, the Peoria Chiefs lead the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers by three games for a shot at the postseason. In the first half, the Timber Rattlers finished in dead last.
As for the East division, the Great Lakes Loons won the first half with a 45-20 record, and in the second half they are in 5th with a 29-32 record, as the Fort Wayne TinCaps (34-27) lead the division by a .5 game over the West Michigan Whitecaps (33-27).
— Cedar Rapids Kernels (@CRKernels) September 5, 2023
The surge to the top as been with the help from their batting leaders in Kala’i Rosario (109 hits, 70 runs, 27 doubles, 20 home runs, 89 RBIs, 74 walks), Ben Ross (96 hits, 61 runs, 25 doubles, 19 home runs, 71 RBIs, 45 walks), Emmanuel Rodriguez (83 hits, 86 runs, 13 doubles, 9 triples, 16 home runs, 52 RBIs, 87 walks, 19 stolen bases), and Tanner Schobel (87 hits, 53 runs, 10 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs, 61 RBIs, 36 walks).
As for the pitching, Mike Paredes and John Stankiewicz have led with a 7-1 record, Orlando Rodriguez at 7-2, and Malik Barrington at 6-1, all mostly out of the pen. Only Paredes and Rodriguez combined for eight starts.
Paredes, who pitched for the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels in 2022 to a 7-4 record, has stepped up his game at the High A ball level and in his short relief outings, has been nearly lights out. Rodriguez has been in High A ball for two seasons, and has had an under 3.00 ERA in both with the 2023 season being his best thus far in his minor league career, as he has posted a 2.43 ERA through 12 appearances. Stankiewicz, who was nearly unhittable with the Mighty Mussels in 2022 through four games, struggled with the Kernels in 10 starts, but has turned it around for this season in High A as he worked through his struggles mostly out of the pen and has four saves out of six chances through 36 appearances. Barrington, who sports the highest ERA of the other three at 4.29, has limited the opposition to just a .196 batting average in 38 games out of the pen and has struck out 78 batters in 63 innings.
First Half champs for the playoff spot, Second Half champs for the vibes. pic.twitter.com/eIUZN2zqFJ
— Cedar Rapids Kernels (@CRKernels) September 6, 2023
The Kernels did recently receive relief pitcher Jackson Hicks from the Mussels, and with Fort Myers, he was 6-1, with a 3.22 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. In his first game with the Kernels, soft hits, found holes as he gave up three runs on four hots, but his next outing, he struck out the side against the Lake County Captains. Three days later the Captains got their revenge on Hicks as he gave up three runs on four hits. The scoring came after he entered the game with the bases loaded and allowed a base hit to score a run. But he settled down and induced a groundball double play which he started and then struck out the next batter to end the inning. In the next inning, Hicks the opposition scored the remaining runs on three hits, but he was able to get out of the jam and reduce the damage. Hicks will be a viable asset to the Kernels if they use him in the postseason.
The Kernels are 8-2 in their last 10 games and playing some of their best baseball after going 20-7 in August and 3-1 in their first four games in September. Just five more regular season games and the Kernels will be in a position to do what no team has done in 29 years, bring a league title back to Cedar Rapids.
The excitement builds as the postseason starts on September 12th.
Follow Legends on Deck as we will post the results of all the playoff action.