CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - The Kernels season came to an end on Monday night in Cedar Rapids with a 6-2 loss in Game 3 of the Western Division Championship Series. The LumberKings advance to the Midwest League Championship Series for the second time in four years where they will face the South Bend Cubs.
The Kernels played in the Western Division Championship Series for the sixth consecutive season in 2019. Overall, Cedar Rapids will enter the 2020 season with a seven-year postseason streak.
Clinton grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the first inning by collecting three straight two-out RBI singles. Kernels starter Tyler Palm almost escaped the inning without allowing a run, but Kameron Misner was hit by a pitch with two strikes and two outs to extend the inning. Then, Will Banfield's RBI single with two strikes to left-center scored Christopher Torres, who began the game with a walk, for the night's first run. Evan Edwards followed with a RBI single to left that scored Misner. J.D. Osborne's RBI single to center capped off the inning and gave the LumberKings a three-run advantage.
Palm (0-1) exited after recording two outs and allowing three runs on three hits in the loss. He struck out one and walked one. Denny Bentley came out of the bullpen and got the final out of the inning, stranding two LumberKings. Clinton stranded two more in scoring position in the second inning when Bentley picked up a strikeout to end the frame. The LumberKings also left two on base in the fourth when the inning ended with a terrific sliding stop by third baseman Seth Gray. Bentley finished with three scoreless innings in relief. He allowed two hits while striking out two and walking one.
Cedar Rapids got on the board in the third inning, cutting the deficit to 3-1. Jared Akins doubled off the wall in left-center before moving to third on an infield single by Trevor Casanova. Gabe Snyder scored Akins when he grounded into a force out. Walks by Matt Wallner and Tyler Webb loaded the bases with two outs, but Clinton's starter Alberto Guerrero struck out Gray to the inning and leave three Kernels on base.
Clinton got the run back in the fifth and made the score 4-1. Misner made his way to third base against Kernels reliever Jose Martinez with a walk, stolen base, and single off the first base bag by Banfield. Misner scored when Nate Hadley came out of the bullpen and threw a wild pitch. Martinez completed his night by recording two hits and allowing one run on one hit, collecting one strikeout and one walk. Hadley went 1.2 scoreless innings on the mound, allowing one hit.
The Kernels responded immediately and cut the lead to 4-2 with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Wander Javier doubled to right off of Guerrero and scored on Tyler Webb's two-strike, two-out RBI single to left field against reliever Elkin Alcala. It was Webb's fifth RBI in six playoff games. Webb batted .588 (10-of-17) during the team's postseason run.
Guerrero lasted 4.2 innings and struck out eight in a no-decision. He allowed two runs on four hits while walking three.
Cedar Rapids threatened in the sixth inning against Elkin Alcala but didn't score. Spencer Steer singled and DaShawn Keirsey walked to put two on with no outs. Back to back strikeouts and a fly out by Snyder to left field stranded two runners on base. Alcala went 1.1 scoreless innings, striking out three and walking one.
Bubba Hollins smashed a two-run triple off the wall in left with two outs in the seventh inning off of reliever J.T. Perez, allowing Clinton to increase the lead to 6-2. Misner began the inning by reaching on a fielding error by Javier at shortstop. Edwards singled to put two men on base. Two batters later, Hollins tripled just over the reach of left fielder Webb, who crashed into the wall in the corner. Perez allowed two unearned runs and two hits over one inning of work, collecting three strikeouts. Austin Schulfer was the team's final pitcher of the night, and he threw two scoreless and hitless innings with no hits and one hit batter.
Peyton Culbertson (1-0) earned the win in relief for the LumberKings. He retired the first seven batters he faced with one strikeout in 2.1 innings before leaving after allowing a one-out double to Trevor Casanova. Manuel Rodriguez allowed one hit but got the final two outs of the game to secure the victory for Clinton.
The Kernels begin the 2020 season on April 9 at Kane County. The home opener will be Monday, April 13 vs. Wisconsin at 6:35 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.