The Snappers' chances of clinching a playoff spot in the season's final days looked grim early on Sunday afternoon. However, an abundance of errors in the late innings handed Beloit a much-needed 9-4 win over the Kernels. The victory ensures that, regardless of the outcome of the Wisconsin-Kane County contest later tonight, the Snappers will play a meaningful game on the last day of the season.
Beloit jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Hunter Hargrove doubled home Athletics No. 5 prospect Austin Beck in the bottom of the first inning. Cedar Rapids answered with an RBI double from Twins No. 12 prospect Akil Baddoo in the third, but more production from the top of the Snappers' lineup briefly put them back on top. Following a double from Athletics No. 17 prospect Nick Allen to lead off the third, Beck drove him in with an RBI single. Athletics No. 6 prospect Lazaro Armenteros' single set the stage for Hargrove's two-run double, extending Beloit's lead to 4-1.
The Kernels would rally against Snappers reliever Jesus Zambrano- who replaced Jhenderson Hurtado after his pitch count-restricted 3 2/3 innings- in the fifth. Ariel Montesino and Twins No. 25 prospect Jacob Pearson hit back-to-back bombs to start the inning before Ben Rodriguez knotted the game with a two-out RBI single.
Hoping to keep the contest tied, Cedar Rapids sent flamethrowing right-hander Johan Quezada to the mound in the sixth inning. Despite consistently sitting 97-99 MPH and inducing weak contact from the Snappers, Quezada was a victim of his team's sudden defensive breakdown in the seventh. Quezada issued a two-out walk to Armenteros, but then appeared to escape the jam with a weak groundball from Hargrove. Kernels catcher David Banuelos sailed the ball into right field, however, allowing Armenteros to score the go-ahead run all the way from first base. Second baseman Michael Helman then couldn't handle a grounder from the next batter, Miguel Mercedes, allowing the Snappers to score their sixth run.
Cedar Rapids' defensive woes continued into the eighth. Mickey McDonald reached on a groundball that shortstop Michael Davis could not handle, and Robert Mullen followed with a booming RBI double to center field. Beck and Armenteros would add back-to-back RBI knocks later in the inning as Beloit continued to put the game out of reach.
The 1-2-3 hitters in the Snappers' lineup led the charge offensively: Beck, Armenteros and Hargrove all had three hits and were responsible for eight of Beloit's nine runs. Hargrove had two doubles, while Beck, Allen (2-for-4) and Mullen (1-for-4) added a double apiece.
After Zambrano's shaky relief appearance, the Snappers' bullpen settled down, as Nick Highberger and Seth Martinez combined for four perfect innings. Martinez struck out three while recording his 14th save of the season.
Beloit's playoff hopes fall on their final regular season game tomorrow at 2 p.m. CT. Gus Varland (0-0, 0.59 ERA) will oppose Cedar Rapids' Tyler Watson (5-6, 4.78 ERA).
The Beloit Snappers are a member of the Midwest League and have been the Single-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics since 2013. For more ticket information, contact the Snappers office at (608) 362-2272 or on our website, www.snappersbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.