Trevor Bell tossed seven strong innings as Cedar Rapids defeated visiting Clinton, 4-1, on Wednesday in the opener of their Midwest League playoff series.
Bell (1-0) yielded a run on three hits while striking out five. The 20-year-old right-hander, who went 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA over his last five regular-season starts, recorded 11 straigt outs after allowing a first-inning double, then set down nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
"First-pitch strikes and early-in-the-count outs are always huge," said Bell, who was 8-4 with a 4.14 ERA in the regular season. "There's even more importance on those things in a short series. My fastball was a little up in the zone tonight, but it felt like it had some extra velocity on it. And with good command and bite on my changeup, I was able to get some quick outs and pitch to my defense."
The Kernels got on the board in the second when Mark Trumbo led off with a double, advanced on Matthew Sweeney's single and scored on Hank Conger's sacrifice fly. Ryan Mount's two-out single plated Tyler Johnson, who reached on a forceout and stole second.
"I think the early runs helped me into a good groove," Bell said. "It takes a little pressure off and reminds me not to be too perfect. I definitely relaxed a bit more."
The 21-year-old Trumbo went 2-for-4 and launched a solo homer to left field in the sixth.
"In a three-game series, you have to come out swinging," said Trumbo, who scored twice. "I was looking to swing early and he threw a first-pitch fastball that was elevated in the zone and I got a real good swing on it."
Marco Albano tossed a scoreless eighth and Warner Madrigal fanned the side in the ninth for his first playoff save.
LumberKings starter Zachary Phillips (0-1) surrendered three runs on six hits over six innings, striking out two and walking one. The 20-year-old left-hander, who went 11-7 with a 2.91 ERA, stranded three runners in scoring position before giving up Trumbo's homer.
Phillips had limited Trumbo to a double and a walk in five at-bats this season before watching a fastball get driven over the left-field wall.
Chad Tracy led off the fifth with a homer for Clinton.
Game 2 is Thursday in Clinton at 8 p.m. ET.