Cedar Rapids, IA - The Peoria Chiefs rallied for a 5-3 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the first game of the Western Division Finals on Saturday night. The Chiefs will host the Kernels at 4:00 p.m. Sunday where a win clinches a berth in the Midwest League Championship Series.
The Kernels scored in the first against Chiefs starter Angel Rondon. Akil Baddoo drew a walk and Michael Helman followed with a single. A fielders' choice put Helman at second and he scored on a broken-bat flare to center by Ryan Jeffers for a 1-0 Kernels lead.
Cedar Rapids extended their lead in the fifth with a two-out rally. Michael Davis singled to put two on base and David Banuelos doubled to score Trey Cabbage for a 2-0 lead. Rondon walked Baddoo to load the bases but reliever Robbie Gordon got out of the inning with a groundout.
The Chiefs couldn't get anything going against lefty Bryan Sammons who retired the last 11 batters he faced. Peoria's only base runners against the starter were consecutive one-out singles by Nick Dunn and Andres Luna in the third inning.
The Chiefs offense finally got going in the eighth against reliever Zach Neff. Zach Kirtley reached on an infield single when his pop-up landed untouched by the mound. With one out Dunn singled to put runners on the corners and Andres Luna singled home Kirtley. Justin Toerner's infield single loaded the bases and with two outs Luken Baker drove home two with a single for a 3-2 Chiefs lead.
The lead was short-lived as the Kernels came right back in the bottom of the inning. Reliever Fabian Blanco walked pinch-hitter Gabriel Marciel on four pitches and Davis doubled to right but the Chiefs threw out Maciel at the plate to keep the Chiefs up 3-2. Kodi Whitley took over on the mound and pinch-hitter Jake Pearson beat out a high infield chopper as Davis scored to tie the game. A double off the glove of Luna in left and an intentional walk to Baddoo loaded the bases but Whitley induced a double play ball to shortstop to end the inning.
Peoria came out swinging in the ninth as Julio Rodriguez led off with a single to center against Jose Martinez. Kirtley singled to right, Nick Plummer pinch-ran for Rodriguez and both runners moved up on a groundout by Nolan Gorman. Dunn pulled a single into right field to score both runs and give the Chiefs a 5-3 lead. Whitley went back on the mound and retired the Kernels in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the win.
Rondon took a no-decision as he allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five over 3 2/3 innings. Gordon allowed one walk over two hitless innings as he struck out three. Ben Yokley allowed two hits over 1 2/3 shutout innings as he struck out one. Blanco allowed a run on one hit and one walk in 1/3 of an inning. Whitley got the win as he allowed two hits and walked one over 1 2/3 innings while striking out one.
Notes: This is the Chiefs first win in a division finals series since 2002…Dunn had three hits and has two multi-hit games in the playoffs…Baker has six RBI in the playoffs and two multi-RBI games…The Chiefs had just two hits in the first seven innings before collecting five hits in the eighth and three in the ninth to finish with 10 hits…Ascanio started two inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded to escape jams…Gonzalez matched his outfield assist total from the regular season with one in the eighth inning…Rodriguez has an eight-game hitting streak dating back to the last week of August…Sammons hadn't pitched in the MWL since July 15 with his last seven outings coming for either High-A Fort Myers or Double-A Chattanooga…He rejoined the Kernels from Double-A for the start of the playoffs...The Chiefs are 3-2 in Western Division Finals and 7-3 in conference finals games all-time…The are 4-1 in the opening game of a conference finals from 1985, 1986, 2002 and 2015…Peoria is 2-2 all-time in Cedar Rapids in playoff games and 3-4 against the Kernels overall with games in 2002, 2009 and 2015…All-time the Chiefs are 8-11 against Iowa teams in the playoffs, 4-7 on the road…The Chiefs and Kernels are now 7-7 head to head this season…Peoria can clinch a spot in the MWL Championship Series for the first time since 2002 with one more win in the series…Game two of the series is at 4:00 p.m. Sunday in Peoria with gates opening 3:00 p.m. and fans can play catch on the field pre-game…Sunday is Bark in the Park and kids 12 and under can run the bases post-game…Tickets in the seating bowl are $9.00 and suite tickets are $20 for individuals or $150 for a group of ten…Tickets are available online at peoriachiefs.com and the Dozer Park Box Office opens at Noon Sunday…The Chiefs will start LH Jake Dahlberg against Kernels RH Blayne Enlow…The broadcast with Voice of the Chiefs Nathan Baliva can be heard, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 3:45 p.m. on www.peoriachiefs.com/listenlive and is also available on the Peoria Chiefs Network in the Tune-In Radio App…The game is also available to subscribers on MiLB.TV.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.