CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - The Cedar Rapids Kernels clinched the 2017 Western Division First-Half Wild Card spot Sunday by defeating the Clinton LumberKings, 16-3, in front of a season-high 3,926 fans at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels qualified for the Midwest League playoffs for the fifth year in a row and secured the longest playoff streak in Cedar Rapids professional baseball history.
A nine-run rally in the first inning gave Cedar Rapids (39-31) an early 9-0 lead. Lewin Diaz opened the scoring with a two-run single. Brandon Lopez added an RBI single before Christian Cavaness produced a three-run triple. Aaron Whitefield increased the lead with a sacrifice fly, and Travis Blankenhorn hit a two-run home run off the right-field foul pole. Blankenhorn's blast was his eighth home run of the season.
The Kernels tallied three more runs during the second and pushed their lead to 12-0. Whitefield lifted a two-run clout over the wall in right field for his seventh homer this year, and Blankenhorn registered an RBI single that plated Ben Rortvedt.
Clinton (31-36) broke up the shutout bid in the top of the fourth. Joe Rizzo led off with a walk and made it to third base before coming home during an RBI groundout from Ryan Scott. The LumberKings also scored in the seventh on a two-run double by Dimas Ojeda, but that only sliced the deficit to 12-3.
Four runs in the eighth inning provided the finishing touches on a 16-3 Kernels victory. Whitefield delivered a two-run double and finished Sunday's contest with a career-high five runs batted in. Rortvedt followed with his first career home run, and his two-run round-tripper to right field lifted Cedar Rapids to a new season high for runs scored.
Kernels southpaw Alex Robinson (2-5) was credited as the winning pitcher Sunday. He faced the minimum over 2.1 scoreless and hitless innings of relief to lock up a victory and help the Kernels claim a playoff berth. LumberKings left-hander Danny Garcia (5-5) was handed the loss after allowing seven runs in the first inning without recording an out.
Coming up, the 2017 Midwest League All-Star Game will be played Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET in Midland, Michigan with Clark Beeker, Travis Blankenhorn, Lewin Diaz, Mitchell Kranson, Jermaine Palacios, and Sean Poppen representing the Kernels. After the All-Star Break, Cedar Rapids returns to action Thursday at Quad Cities in a 6:35 p.m. contest. Chris Kleinhans-Schulz will have the call on 1450 KMRY AM and 93.1 KMRY FM and also online at www.kmryradio.com and www.kernels.com.
The Kernels' next homestand starts Monday, June 26 and runs through Thursday, June 29. Fans can purchase tickets for all Kernels home games by visiting www.kernels.com, going to the Kernels Ticket Office, or calling (319) 896-7560. The Kernels Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. On Sundays when the Kernels have a home game, the Kernels Ticket Office will open at 11:00 a.m.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels are the Midwest League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.