CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - Peoria's offense came alive in the final two innings, and the Chiefs came back to beat the Kernels 5-3 in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship Series on Saturday night. The Chiefs had just two baserunners through seven innings before scoring five runs with eight hits over their final two at-bats. The Kernels must win Game 2 tomorrow at Peoria to extend their season and force a Game 3 on Monday.
Bryan Sammons allowed just two runners to reach base over six scoreless innings for the Kernels. He retired the first seven batters of the game before allowing back to back singles in the third inning. He then sent down the last 11 he faced to get through the sixth. He struck out six in a no-decision.
Meanwhile, the Kernels held a 2-0 lead going into the eighth inning. Ryan Jeffers singled home Michael Helman from second base with a flare into shallow center in the first inning, giving the Kernels an early lead. A double play with the bases loaded ended the inning. It was the first of two inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded. The other came in the eighth.
Cedar Rapids took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Trey Cabbage beat the shift with a bunt single down the third base line. With two outs, Victor Tademo reached with a single when a high pop up fell in left field. Next batter, David Banuelos ripped a RBI double to left that scored Cabbage.
Peoria's starter Angel Rondon lasted 3.2 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits.
Zach Neff pitched a perfect seventh inning for the Kernels in relief of Sammons, but he ran into trouble in the eighth.
Peoria scored three runs in the eighth inning to take a 3-2 lead. The inning started with a pop-up that fell on the left side of the infield, allowing Zach Kirtley to reach with a single to start the inning. After a strikeout, Nick Dunn singled to put runners on the corners. Andres Luna followed with a RBI single to right, scoring Kirtley and getting the Chiefs on the board. Justin Toerner then reached on an infield single that loaded the bases. Rayder Ascanio grounded a ball to shortstop Michael Davis, who threw home to force out the potential tying run at the plate. However, Luken Baker connected for a two-out, two-run single to right-center with the bases loaded. This scored both Luna and Toerner, giving Peoria their first lead.
The Kernels responded by tying the game 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Gabriel Maciel began the inning with a walk. Davis then ripped a double to right, but Maciel was thrown out at the plate on the play. Davis scored the tying run when Jacob Pearson's pinch-hit RBI single was chopped through the middle. Banuelos followed with a double, his third hit of the night, while Akil Baddoo was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. However, Helman grounded into an inning-ending double play and the game stayed tied 3-3 going to the ninth.
Peoria scored twice in the ninth to take a 5-3 lead against reliever Jose Martinez. Julio Rodriguez and Kirtley began the inning with consecutive singles. Nolan Gorman's groundout moved them both to scoring position. Dunn's two-run single to right scored a pair, and the Chiefs took a two-run lead. The Kernels went down in order in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Martinez (0-1) took the loss, allowing two runs while recording two outs. Kodi Whitley (1-0) earned the win for Peoria after blowing save chance in the eighth. Whitely got the final five outs of the game.
The Kernels left 11 runners on base in the game.
The series now shifts to Dozer Park in Peoria for Game 2 at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Blayne Enlow (3-5, 3.26) starts for the Kernels against Peoria's Jake Dahlberg (4-3, 2.87). If necessary, Game 3 will be played in Peoria on Monday at 6:30 p.m. Fans can listen to the action on 1450 KMRY AM and 93.1 KMRY FM, as well as online at www.kernels.com and www.kmryradio.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.