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09/03/2007 8:02 PM ET
Kernels lose game, but win Midwest West title
First-round matchups include Cedar Rapids-Clinton, Quad Cities-Beloit
Robert Hernandez, who won four of his last five starts, slowed the Kernels down. (Emily Smith/MLB.com)

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Cedar Rapids lost to Peoria in the regular-season finale Monday, but Quad Cities' loss to Beloit gave the Kernels reason to pop -- a cork or two.

Cedar Rapids (40-30) fell to Peoria, 5-2, but wrapped up the Midwest League's Western Division second-half title when Swing of the Quad Cities lost at Beloit, 6-2.

The Kernels will play Clinton in the first round of the league playoffs, and the Swing picked up the Wild Card and will take on the Snappers.

Although the Kernels came up short Monday, they dominated opponents down the season's home stretch. The club went 22-8 in August, winning 15 of the final 19 ballgames.

"I think what contributed the most to our success was that we finally got healthy," Cedar Rapids manager Ever Magallanes said. "We had lost [catcher] Hank Conger for a month and a half. [Outfielder] Peter Bourjos went down and we lost [second baseman] Ryan Mount as well. Down the stretch we had everyone healthy, and then people started to finally see the kind of team we were capable of putting on the field.

"Also, our pitching has been just outstanding, both the starters and the relievers. Dan Ricabal, our pitching coach, joined the team about a month into the season and made a huge difference. Our starters have been going six and seven quality innings on a regular basis, and the guys in the bullpen keep getting the job done."

Robert Hernandez hurled 5 2/3 strong innings and Darwin Barney blasted a two-run homer for Peoria.

Barney's two-run blast in the fifth snapped a 1-1 tie and gave Peoria a lead it would not relinquish. Leon Johnson hit a two-run single in the sixth to cap the game's scoring.

Hernandez (8-9) allowed two runs -- one earned -- on three hits over 5 2/3 innings while striking out six for the win. The native of Venezuela won four of his last five starts after suffering his worst outing of the season against Great Lakes on Aug. 7.

Jose Ceda struck out six in just 2 1/3 frames, and Allessandro Maestri brought the strikeout total to 15 and notched his 12th save by fanning the side in the ninth.

Stantrel Smith's third-inning sacrifice fly put the Kernels on the board, and Peter Bourjos stroked an RBI double in the sixth.

Amalio Diaz (3-6) yielded five runs on 13 hits over 5 1/3 innings for the loss. Jim West followed with 2 2/3 scoreless frames.

The Chiefs (40-30) finished with the same record as the Kernels and the Swing, but lost out on a playoff spot. Peoria's win Monday evened the season series against Cedar Rapids at 6-6, but the Kernels advanced by virtue of outscoring the Chiefs, 64-48, over the 12 contests. Peoria went 4-6 against Quad Cities in the season series.

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.