Saturday, June 14 is Iowa State Cyclone Night at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels will wear special Iowa State jerseys that will be sold via a silent auction during the game.
According to Baseball Almanac, 18 former ISU players have made it to Major League Baseball. One of those 18 players also played professionally in Cedar Rapids. Dutch Levsen was born in Wyoming, Iowa and played at Iowa State from 1917-1919. In 1923, he played for the Cedar Rapids Bunnies as a 25-year-old. As a pitcher, he went 19-4 on the mound. He threw an impressive 198 innings in 25 games that season, allowing just 159 hits. As a hitter, he collected 16 hits, including two home runs and two doubles.
The Bunnies were a member of the Mississippi Valley League, a Class-D league that also included teams from Dubuque, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Waterloo, and Rock Island, Illinois. The Bunnies were managed by Bill Speas. While in the minor leagues, Levsen also played in Terre Haute, Rochester, and New Orleans.
Levsen broke into Major League Baseball with the 1923 Cleveland Indians on September 28 of that season. He pitched parts of six seasons with the Indians in the American League from 1923-1928. He recorded a career record of 21-26 with a 4.17 earned run average in 80 career games. His best season by far came in 1926. He went 16-13 that year with a 3.41 earned run average, setting a career high in wins. As a batter, Levsen had 135 career at-bats with nine career runs batted in and 24 career hits.
Levsen’s final Major League game was on July 31, 1928 at age 30. He died in 1972 at age 73 in Minnesota.
The Kernels Opening Day roster has been announced, and the team arrives in Cedar Rapids today! You can check out the roster at www.kernels.com.
The roster features some great young talent and many returning players from the 2013 playoff team.
Here is a breakdown of the roster:
10 Kernels spent some time in Cedar Rapids in 2013 while 15 players will be newcomers to the team.
Three Kernels are listed as Top Prospects in the Twins organization by Baseball America: RHP Kohl Stewart (#4), RHP Felix Jorge (#17), & LHP Randy Rosario (#22)
Two players are listed on MLB.com’s Top Twins prospect list: RHP Kohl Stewart (#4) & RHP Felix Jorge (#10). Stewart is listed as MLB.com’s #40 prospect in all of baseball.
High School: 3
International Free Agents: 7
Miguel Sulbaran and Jeremias Pineda were both acquired by the Twins via trade. Sulbaran began his professional career with the Dodgers while Pineda started with the Red Sox.
2013 Draft Picks: 9
2012 Draft Picks: 6
2012 Signings: 1
2011 Draft Picks: 2
2011 Signings: 3
2010 Draft Picks: 1
2010 Signings: 3
1st Round Picks: 2
2nd Round Picks: 1
3rd-10th Round Picks: 3
10th-20th Round Picks: 6
Drafted after 20th Round: 6
Undrafted Free Agents: 7
15 states make up the roster of the Kernels with California leading the way with four players.
California (4): Alex Muren, Michael Quesada, Bryan Haar, Joel Licon
Florida (3): Brandon Bixler, Hudson Boyd, Zack Larson
Dominican Republic (3): Felix Jorge, Randy Rosario, Jeremias Pineda
Venezuela (3): Yorman Landa, Miguel Sulbaran, Engelb Vielma
Texas (2): Kohl Stewart, Bo Altobelli
Louisiana (1): Ryan Eades
Minnesota (1): Brandon Peterson
South Carolina (1): Christian Powell
Arizona (1): Aaron Slegers
Iowa (1): Chad Christensen
New York (1): Zach Granite
Wisconsin (1): Tanner Vavra
New Mexico (1): Mitch Garver
Puerto Rico (1): Josue Montanez
Australia (1): Logan Wade
The Kernels, in a partnership with Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, have been given a grant to study the awareness and effects of Skin Cancer in its many forms. Please take this five question survey, which is 100% anonymous. It will help us gauge how to deliver important information during the season. This survey will be open until April 30th. Then we will compile the information received and provide education and information during every game in hopes of raising awareness of the prevention techniques available. The survey will be re-administered during late August and the results will be compared to April and hope to prove, through education, we are now using the prevention techniques.
By: Morgan Hawk
The 2013 baseball season began a new era of professional baseball in Cedar Rapids with the new affiliation between the Kernels and the Minnesota Twins. The 2013 Cedar Rapids Kernels finished with an 88-52 record, matching the most wins for a Cedar Rapids club since joining the Midwest League in 1962.
The coaching staff was headlined by manager Jake Mauer. Jake, the older brother of Minnesota Twins-star Joe Mauer, was joined on the staff by a pair of Midwest League coaching-veterans – hitting coach Tommy Watkins and pitching coach Gary Lucas, who had both spent numerous years in the league.
The staff led the Kernels to the postseason for the first time since 2010. While the playoff-run was brief after a two-game sweep by the Quad Cities River Bandits, the season was packed full of team and individual highlights, top prospects, walk-off wins, and record-breaking attendance, making 2013 one of the more memorable seasons to date.
The Kernels opened the 2013 campaign at home on April 4, taking on the Beloit Snappers. Opening Day and the season-opening series was certainly a sign of things to come for the Kernels. The Kernels picked up the first of their 88 wins with a 9-7 victory. It didn’t take long for fans to see that this would be a fun season at the ballpark. Left-handed starter Taylor Rogers struck out the side in the first inning as four Kernels hurlers went on to combine for 16 strikeouts on the evening. In the bottom of the first inning the Kernels posted three runs with the help of a pair of long-balls to right field. Top-prospect Byron Buxton started the frame with a single and a stolen base before coming home to score on Jorge Polanco’s two-run blast. Two batters later, Dalton Hicks launched a home run of his own, and the Kernels were rolling right out of the gate. Hicks continued his quick start as he was honored as the season’s first Midwest League Player of the Week.
The next night the Kernels showcased some of the tremendous resiliency they would have all season. The team came from behind to win by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Niko Goodrum’s walk-off RBI single, which followed Travis Harrison’s game-tying RBI double, showed that the Kernels were a team that would fight until the end.
With the offense in full-force, it was time for the pitching to put on a show in the finale of the series on April 7. Three Kernels pitchers combined for a no-hitter as the Kernels blew out Beloit 9-1. Tyler Duffey was terrific through the first seven frames, not allowing a Beloit base runner. Josue Montanez and Tim Atherton finished the ballgame by combining for four walks, but no hits, as the Kernels notched their first no-no since 2010.
Weather was definitely an issue in the month of April as the Kernels did not play on six scheduled dates. They missed four consecutive games due to rain and cold at Wisconsin and Clinton in early April and even played in snow flurries on a frigid Friday afternoon at Peoria.
Adam Brett Walker put together an incredible individual stretch in late April. During a four-game stretch, Walker homered five times with long-balls in all four games. He collected 16 runs batted in, with seven of those coming on April 26 against Great Lakes. In that game alone, he hit a grand slam and a three-run homer. Walker went on to hit three grand slams during the season and was named Midwest League Player of the Week three separate times.
Kernels fans thought they saw a grand slam on consecutive nights, but it didn’t count in perhaps, the wackiest ending to a game of the season on April 27 against the Loons. With the bases-loaded in the 11th inning Travis Harrison hit a pitch over the wall in left for what was thought to be a walk-off grand slam. However, Harrison was credited with a walk-off RBI single after the Kernels celebration and a brief protest by the Loons. The umpires ruled that two Kernels runners never touched home after the dugout erupted onto the field during the celebration, and only the first run would count. Nevertheless, it was still a dramatic Kernels 8-7 win.
Cedar Rapids-native Kellen Sweeney made a visit to his home city while playing for the Lansing Lugnuts in a three-game series late in the month. Sweeney even nailed a home run to center field, pleasing a nice crowd of friends and family.
Byron Buxton started his Midwest League career by reaching base in his first 29 games-played, a stretch that started on Opening Day and ended on May 8. Buxton showcased his speed, power, defense, and ability to hit to all fields. In April he hit .392 with four homers and 21 runs batted in as he was one of only nine total players selected to Minor League Baseball’s All-April Team. Buxton was also named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Month.
In large part to Buxton, by the end of the opening month the Kernels had raced out to an 18-5 record, ending the month on a nine-game winning streak.
The winning streak came to end to start May as the Kernels opened up the new month on the road. They continued to play on the road until the middle of May as part of a season-long 12-game stretch of road games. The team ran into their first rough stretch of the season as they went 6-6 with games played at West Michigan, South Bend, Quad Cities, and Beloit. Of the six losses, four of those came in walk-off fashion, including an odd ending in Beloit where a bouncing ball hit off of second base to elude Kernels infielders and score the Snappers game-winning run.
The road trip did include some highlights, however. Jose Berrios secured a win in his first three Midwest League starts after joining the team late in April. He struck out eight batters each in two consecutive games, including a win at South Bend on May 5. Later in the season he struck out a season-high nine Burlington Bees.
The game at Pohlman Field in Beloit on May 12 featured 39 total runs as the Kernels powered past the Snappers 23-16. Every position player for both teams scored a run and collected a hit. Every Kernels position player drove in at least one run. Adam Brett Walker and Byron Buxton both had four hits and four runs scored. Walker had seven runs batted in and a pair of home runs for the second game of the season. Combined, Walker and Buxton drove in 19 of the Kernels 23 runs.
Byron Buxton had a knack for shining when the lights were brightest. In a pair of televised games before the All-Star break, Buxton achieved the signature moments of his career in Cedar Rapids, causing fans to wonder how long until the center-fielder would be promoted.
On May 16 against the Burlington Bees, Buxton hit a monster walk-off grand slam to give the Kernels a thrilling 7-6 win. Buxton stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Kernels trailing by three runs before smacking a 1-1 pitch from former Kernel Jairo Diaz over the left field wall and onto 8th Avenue for the victory.
Then on June 10 v. Kane County, Buxton made one of the best defensive plays you’ll see when he dove, full-extension on the warning track in deep, left-center field to take away an extra base hit. The game was broadcast live on Fox Sports North, allowing Twins fans to salivate even more for the future. Buxton’s catch was showcased on ESPN’s Sports Center as one of the Top Ten Plays of the Day. In addition to the tremendous catch, Buxton collected three runs batted in and three hits, including a triple.
Buxton’s shot on May 16 got other Kernels into the walk-off act as they picked up a victory the very next night with Travis Harrison’s walk-off RBI single in the 12th inning to top Kane County. A couple games later, Dalton Hicks sent the crowd home happy with a RBI sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th inning to top the Cougars.
However, the momentum didn’t carry to a road series at Beloit. The Kernels were swept for the first time of the season and ended up losing six-straight games after being swept by Burlington upon returning home. The resilient Kernels bounced by winning the final four games of the month to finish May with a winning record at 16-14.
A scary moment at Kane County sent Niko Goodrum to the disabled list. On June 2, Goodrum was taken off the field on a stretcher after colliding with Cougars catcher Wilson Contreras at home plate. Goodrum was taken to the hospital as a precaution but later returned to the ballpark before the end of the game.
The Kernels offense was fun to watch all season long, and the 4th inning at home against Quad Cities on June 5 quickly featured the best of that offense. The Kernels scored 10 runs in the 4th inning alone as 15 batters came to the plate and 12 men recorded hits. The first nine batters recorded a hit in the inning. The Kernels went on to pound the River Bandits 14-5 by setting a season-high with 21 hits in the game. Every Kernel in the lineup had a hit, scored a run, and drove in a run.
Towards the end of the first half Jorge Polanco started to become a crowd favorite as chants of “Hip Hip Jorge” routinely flooded the park. Polanco was as solid as any during the 2013 season. He hit .308 during the season and was twice named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Week.
As the weather heated up in June Dalton Hicks heated up at the plate. The first-baseman slugged seven home runs in the June while hitting .333 with 33 runs batted in.
The Kernels had led the division for the majority of the half. However, as the half drew to an end the team hit another rough stretch, and Beloit was creeping in on first place. The Kernels wound up losing the final four games of the half as the Snappers passed the Kernels in the standings to finish in first place. While the Kernels missed out on finishing atop the division, they still locked up a playoff berth and knew they would be playing for a Midwest League title in September.
Eight Kernels went to Dayton to represent Cedar Rapids at the Midwest League All-Star Game in mid-June. A total of nine players were selected, but pitcher Tyler Duffey was promoted in early June, making him unable to attend. First-baseman Dalton Hicks, second-baseman Jorge Polanco, along with outfielders Byron Buxton and Adam Brett Walker were named as starters on the west squad, giving the Kernels the most starters of any team in the league. Third-baseman Travis Harrison, infielder Niko Goodrum, and pitchers Jose Berrios and Steve Gruver also played in the game. Buxton, Walker, and Hicks were also selected to the Post-Season All-Star Team.
Despite having so many participants at the festivities in Dayton, the Kernels still came out on fire after the break. The Kernels won a season-best 11 games in a row to start the second half at 11-0. The streak earned them a trip to the Ox Yoke Inn Restaurant in Amana for a free dinner, thanks to the team’s Board of Directors. The long-standing tradition of a dinner is provided for any 10-game winning streak by a Kernels team.
You couldn’t have written a better script for the Kernels to pick up the 10th win in a row. The trip to the restaurant featuring German recipes came in large part from the performance of Max Kepler, a native of Germany who had joined the club only a couple weeks prior. On June 30, Kepler’s single in the bottom of the 9th inning scored Jorge Polanco to cap off a two-run inning and give the Kernels a 6-5 win over Peoria.
The 11th win in a row came thanks to a Minnesota Twins pitcher. Mike Pelfrey made a Major League rehab start for the Kernels at home on July 1 against Peoria and led the Kernels to a 6-3 win. Pelfrey pitched six innings, allowing two runs on two hits for the win in the Kernels first rehab appearance in many years.
During the streak Byron Buxton was promoted, a much-expected move. Buxton played a series at Wisconsin to open up the second half before being shipped to Fort Myers on June 23.
Despite playing only 68 games in the Midwest League, Buxton was named 2013 Midwest League Most Valuable Player and Midwest League Top Prospect as voted on by team managers. He hit .341 with eight home runs, 55 runs batted in, 32 stolen bases, 15 doubles, 10 triples, and 68 runs scored.
More promotions came in mid-July as All-Stars Dalton Hicks and Steve Gruver, along with starting outfielder J.D. Williams and reliever Tyler Jones were all sent to Fort Myers. David Hurlbut joined those four in Florida in mid-August. Gruver and Hurlbut were two of the more versatile pitchers on the staff, both able to pitch in many situations. Jones was the closer during his time in Cedar Rapids, leading the team with nine saves, despite not playing the entire season.
Those moves coincided with the additions of outfielder Jonathan Murphy and pitchers Tim Shibuya and Brian Gilbert. Those three, along with utility player Joel Licon and pitcher Madison Boer, who were both added in June, fit nicely with the present Kernels. The new Kernels stayed resilient and led the team to an even better second half record.
The identity of the team changed a bit with the new promotions. A team who could pound out runs seemingly at-will in the first half, shifted to a team where pitching started to carry the team in late July and August.
July featured 12 games against eastern-division foes, including a trip to Lake County and Fort Wayne. It took some time for the Kernels to adjust with the new players as they finished the month with 15 wins, the lowest of any month, but they really turned it on to close out the season.
On July 17 at Lake County five Kernels hurlers combined to strike out 19 Captains hitters over 12 innings in a 7-6 win. The highest individual strikeout total of the season came from Tim Atherton on August 14 v. Beloit. The right-hander struck out 11 Snappers over eight innings in a 3-2 victory.
Left-handed starter Brett Lee turned it to high gear in July. Lee pitched the Kernels to back to back complete-game wins on July 12 vs. Dayton, and then again on July 19 at Lake County. Following that performance Lee was named Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Week.
Lefty Mason Melotakis pitched as a starter and a reliever for the Kernels during the 2013 campaign. Likely his best outing came on July 28 v. Clinton when he pitched eight scoreless innings while striking out seven in 3-1 win over the LumberKings. Melotakis led the team with 11 victories on the year.
Jose Berrios was named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week in mid-August after his superb outing at Kane County on August 10. Berrios took a no-hitter into the 6th inning and pitched into the 8th inning by striking out seven with no runs allowed. He only allowed two hits total in the 6-0 win.
Alex Muren was solid out of the bullpen, not allowing a run over five consecutive outings in the second half. Brian Gilbert managed to secure five saves in five opportunities with a 1.06 earned run average. Josue Montanez found his groove late in the season by going at least seven innings in five of seven starts during a stretch in August.
Righty Tim Shibuya picked up a complete game shutout victory on August 31 at Clinton. He allowed only four hits over nine innings in a dominating performance against the LumberKings. Shibuya was named Midwest League Player of the Week for that performance. Shibuya pitched in ten games for the Kernels, finishing with a sub-1.00 earned run average. He only walked four in over 37 innings.
Even though the overall pitching improved for the Kernels in the second half, there were still tremendous hitting achievements, as well.
In July alone, Adam Brett Walker hit .304 with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in. Walker went on to hit 27 home runs on the season with 109 runs batted in. He led the Midwest League in both categories on the season and became one of only five players in Cedar Rapids history to drive in over 100 runs.
Adding more to the something you don’t see every day category, both Tyler Grimes and Niko Goodrum notched inside-the-park home runs in 2013. Grimes picked up his on July 13 against Bowling Green in Cedar Rapids. Goodrum’s came on August 1 at Burlington.
The Kernels and Quad Cities River Bandits established themselves as the top two teams during the second-half of the season. The Kernels finished first in the division in the second half with the River Bandits placing second. The two teams established a healthy rivalry with Quad Cities beating the Kernels more than any other team during the season. Early in the season fans were treated to seeing the top two picks from the 2012 draft square off – in Byron Buxton and Astros prospect Carlos Correa. Later in the year, Correa was teamed up with 2013 number-one pick Mark Appel. The right-hander secured his first professional win in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels on August 6, downing the Kernels 7-2.
A few weeks after facing a likely future big-league arm in Appel, the Kernels faced a current big-league pitcher on August 28 in Cedar Rapids. Scott Baker, who was currently on the disabled list of the Chicago Cubs, picked up a 9-1 win for Kane County by going five scoreless innings while allowing only one hit.
The Kernels got very hot in mid-August, rattling off eight-straight victories from August 14-21. The Kernels started the streak with back to back walk-off wins. A Tyler Grimes single gave the Kernels a 3-2 win over Beloit on August 14. It was Adam Brett Walker’s turn the next night as his double pushed the Kernels to a 6-5 win over the Snappers. The Kernels had trailed 5-0 early in that game, making it the largest comeback of the season.
Joel Licon became a spark plug for the Kernels during the winning streak, collecting a hit in 16 straight games. The streak ended on August 19 and was the longest hitting streak by a Kernel on the year.
Michael Quesada had quite the streak of his own from September 1-4. Quesada reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances, the longest of its kind during the season. The streak included five straight walks for Quesada.
The team roared into the playoffs by winning 22 games in the month of August, the most wins for any month. After dropping a pair of games at Quad Cities in late August, the Kernels were resilient by coming home to sweep a four-game series from Peoria. It was the Kernels 13th sweep of the season.
The Kernels crushed Clinton 15-6 in the regular-season finale on September 2, moving their mark to 88-50 and matching the most wins for a Cedar Rapids team since joining the Midwest League in 1962.
The hopes of the team’s first Midwest League Championship since 1994 were dashed away quickly by Quad Cities in the opening round of the playoffs. The offense was shut down by the strong River Bandits pitching staff as they defeated the Kernels 2-1 and 4-2 to sweep the two-game series.
With the excitement of the team and the new affiliation with the Twins, the Cedar Rapids Kernels saw a big increase in attendance at the ballpark. In 2013 the Kernels drew the largest single-game crowd and two of the top-three single-game crowds in the history of the stadium. On August 16 against Beloit 5,879 fans were in attendance, making it the largest ever since the new stadium opened in 2002. July 4 saw 5,631 fans come through the gates for a game against Wisconsin.
The 2013 Kernels season was filled with so many memorable moments and quite the way to ring in the new affiliation with the Minnesota Twins!
By: Matt Cozzi, Cedar Rapids Kernels
That was the result of one half season in the Midwest League for Byron Buxton. In 68 games, Buxton finished at or near the top of all major offensive categories.
The 19-year old led the league in runs scored (68) and on-base percentage (.431), was second in batting average (.341), hits (92), slugging percentage (.559), triples (10), and total bases (151), and either third of fourth-best in RBI (55), stolen bases (32), extra-base hits (33), and walks (44).
Buxton was also tremendous in center field. He made a catch at the warning track a couple weeks ago that registered as the No. 2 overall play on SportsCenter. He made another play a few days later that probably should have been in the Top 10.
Kernels manager Jake Mauer told Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan he “could see [Buxton] becoming a 30-30 guy.” He’s drawn comparisons to Willie Mays. And Mike Trout. And Andrew McCutchen. Given his current trajectory, he could be roaming the Twins outfield in April 2015.
But over his 68 games in Cedar Rapids — a time when fans trotted swiftly down the stadium steps at Perfect Game Field to get a glimpse of Buxton during batting practice, or waited for him for over an hour just outside the clubhouse doors — none of that actually impressed me the most.
Buxton’s overall makeup did. His mode of operation.
Traveling with the team to Kane County for a late-May/early-June series especially, it was easy to observe this. It’s one thing to play within the confines of Cedar Rapids, but Buxton barely put together a sentence on the team bus. Not a word. So focused on baseball. Knowing you’re good, but not letting it show. Letting the process play out.
That’s almost scary. Buxton knows he’s a cut above, but doesn’t showcase that emotion. No over-the-top pre-game routines or postgame celebrations. He did get a little excited — OK, very excited — after a walk-off win against the Burlington Bees, but come on, he hit a walk-off grand slam.
Now, that type of demeanor has hopped on a plane and has headed from the Hawkeye state to the Sunshine state, where Class-A Advanced Fort Meyers awaits. In minor league baseball, players are shuffling around daily. This promotion isn’t a surprise, isn’t a shock.
The next chapter awaits Buxton. He played at the highest level for 68 games in the MWL. Time to move on.
And he won’t say a word about it.
The Kernels opened up the new affiliation with the Minnesota Twins by qualifying for the playoffs in the first half of the Midwest League season. The Kernels finished the half in second place with a 40-28 record. The Kernels were in either first or second place for the duration of the first half and were at the top of the division from April 20-June 15. However, with Beloit getting red hot at the right time and the Kernels dropping a few games late, the Snappers took the division championship. Although, finishing second still means the Kernels will be playing postseason baseball in September, and it certainly doesn’t diminish the thrilling first half we had in Cedar Rapids.
The Kernels were twice 17 games above .500 (37-20 and 30-13). Their worst record of the half was 2-1. At home, they went 23-13 while they were 17-15 on the road. They went 13-9 during day games and 27-19 during night games. The Kernels went 34-13 when scoring first in a game, and the team was 34-9 when scoring at least four runs in a game.
The team won nine games in a row from April 20-30, falling one win short of a return trip for dinner at the Ox Yoke in Amana. The Kernels led the league with 403 runs scored in the half.
Weather certainly played a role in the first as the Kernels had 13 games affected by bad conditions. As a result the Kernels played seven doubleheaders, going 10-4 in those games. They even had two games completely cancelled and from April 9-12 did not play for four consecutive days before of weather. The Kernels played two games on the road (at Wisconsin and at Peoria) with a game-time temperature of 39 degrees! The game at Peoria in April actually featured snow flurries late in the game! The warmest game-time temperature was 89 degrees during a mid-May home game against Burlington. Despite the bad weather the Kernels attendance increased from previous years, drawing 72,762 fans into Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium!
The Kernels opened at home, and the Kernels put on a show right from the start in the 9-7 victory over Beloit. Taylor Rogers struck out the side in the first inning. Byron Buxton made his debut by singling in his first at-bat, stealing second base, and scoring on a two-run home run by Jorge Polanco. Two batters later, Dalton Hicks crushed a home run to deep right.
The Midwest League leaderboard was splashed full of Kernels in the first half. Byron Buxton was second in the league with a .344 batting average and 87 hits while leading the league with a .431 on-base percentage and 65 runs scored. Dalton Hicks led the league with an amazing 63 runs batted in during the half. He was also third with 12 homers. In fact, the Kernels had four players in the top five of the league in runs batted in, including Adam Walker, Buxton, and Jorge Polanco.
Mason Melotakis led the Kernels with six wins on the hill in the half, and Steve Gruver finished with a 2.47 earned run average. David Hurlbut paced the Kernels with five saves.
The Kernels had eight players play in the Midwest League All Star game, including starters Byron Buxton, Adam Brett Walker, Dalton Hicks, and Jorge Polanco. Niko Goodrum, Travis Harrison, Jose Berrios, and Steve Gruver also played in the game. Tyler Duffey was selected but was promoted to Fort Myers before the game was played.
The Kernels roster was full of top Twins prospects, including Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Mason Melotakis, Jorge Polanco, Travis Harrison, Hudson Boyd, Niko Goodrum, Tyler Jones, and Adam Brett Walker.
The team was headlined all season by Byron Buxton, the second overall pick from the 2012 draft. Buxton began his Midwest League career by reaching base in the first 29 games he played in. He racked up the awards and accolades in the half. In April, he was named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Month and placed on the MILB.com’s “All April Team.”
In the first weekend on April 7, he went 4-5 with a triple & double v. Beloit. On April 17, he had two hits in the 1st inning! He recorded the first five-hit game of his career on June 5 v. Quad Cities. He also recorded a pair of four-hit games. Jorge Polanco also collected two four-hit games, by the way.
Buxton wheeled around the bases because a four-base error v. Burlington on May 14 on a dropped fly in center. During a nationally-televised game on June 10 v. Kane County, Buxton stole the show going 3-4 with a triple, double, and three runs batted in. He also made a diving catch on the warning track in deep left center in the game that was featured as the #2 play on “SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.”
Buxton drove in five runs, homered, and scored four times on April 26 v. Great Lakes. He may have out-done himself on May 12 at Beloit, recording four hits, four runs batted in, & four runs scored at Beloit.
Perhaps his signature moment was win he hit a walk-off grand slam home run v. Burlington on May 16 to bring the Kernels from behind.
Back to that May 12th game at Beloit… On that day, the Kernels beat Beloit 23-16. The Kernels and Snappers combined for 39 runs as every position player scored and collected a hit. Every Kernels position player drove in at least one run. Adam Brett Walker and Byron Buxton both had four hits and four runs scored. Walker had seven runs batted in and hit two home runs in the game. Buxton added four batted in. The duo combined to score or drive in 19 of the Kernels 23 runs! Walker hit a homer and a double in the third inning.
That game was the second time during the half where Walker had two home runs and seven batted in during a game. The first came on April 26 vs. Great Lakes as he hit a grand slam and a three-run homer. For those efforts, Walker was twice named the Midwest League Player of the Week. In the first half he finished with three grand slams. Walker had an amazing power stretch from April 22-27. Walker homered five times during the four-game stretch, including homers in all 4 games. He collected 16 runs batted in during the four games.
Dalton Hicks was also named Midwest League Player of the Week during the half. Hicks had the longest hitting streak of any Kernels player with a 12-game stretch. He had a pair of two-homer games and homered in three straight games from June 14-16. In addition, on June 16 he collected six runs batted in v. Peoria.
Tyler Grimes had a stretch in early June where he reached base in 13 of 15 plate appearances, including seven appearances in a row.
On June 5 the Kernels topped Quad Cities 14-5 by scoring 10 runs in the fourth inning. In the inning, 15 batters came to the plate & 12 men recorded hits. The first nine batters recorded a hit in the inning. In the game, the Kernels set a season-high with 21 hits. Every Kernel in the lineup had a hit, a RBI, & a run scored.
The Kernels made history on April 7 with a combined no-hitter in a 9-1 victory over the Beloit. Tyler Duffey retired the first 21 batters in a row before being lifted because of pitch count. Josue Montanez then walked three & allowed one run in the eighth inning, but still no hits. Tim Atherton allowed one walk and struck out three in the ninth inning to complete the no-no. It was the 1st Kernels nine-inning no-hitter since April 30, 2010 when Fabio Martinez, Kyle Hurst, & Mike Kenney threw a no-hitter vs. Kane County. Stephen Locke had tossed a five-inning no-hitter vs. Peoria on July 12, 2010.
Jose Berrios wasn’t on the team on April 7, but he joined in early May and won his first three Midwest League starts. He led the Kernels with 56 strikeouts in the half and struck out eight batters in a game three separate times. Brett Lee had the highest single-game strikeout total when he punched-out 10 Burlington Bees on May 14.
The Kernels had nine wins in their last at-bat & five “Walkoff” wins. In the second game on April 5 of the season, Niko Goodrum’s RBI single in the ninth inning downed Beloit. We already mentioned Buxton’s grand slam walk-off on May 16 v. Burlington. It gave the Kernels a 7-6 win. Travis Harrison’s RBI single against Kane County on May 17 broke a tie in the bottom of the 12th inning. Two days later, Dalton Hicks ended the game against the Cougars with walk-off sacrifice fly.
The most bizarre finish came April 27 v. Great Lakes. With the bases loaded and the game tied 7-7, Travis Harrison hit what was thought to be a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam. Harrison’s shot went over the wall in left to end the game. However, during the celebration the umpires ruled that base runners abandoned the bases so only one run counted. The Kernels still won 8-7 on officially a RBI single.
Quite the first half of Kernels baseball! Come out to the ballpark for more moments in the second half!
The Kernels are down to the final 10 games of the 1st half. Currently, the Kernels lead Beloit by 3.5 games. Quad Cities sits 4 games out. Peoria is 5.5 games out. The top 2 teams at the end of the half on June 16 make the playoffs.
Prior to the June 7 games, the Kernels “Magic Number” is (7). That is also the number to clinch a playoff berth.
So, here’s a breakdown of how things look for the top 4 teams:
Cedar Rapids Kernels: 37-21 (-) 10 games remaining (Tonight v. Quad Cities, 3 v. Kane County, 3 @ Quad Cities, 3 v. Peoria)
Beloit Snappers: 34-25 (3.5) 11 games remaining (Tonight @ Wisconsin, 4 @ Burlington, 3 v. Wisconsin, 3 v. Clinton)
Quad Cities River Bandits: 33-25 (4) 11 games remaining (Tonight @ Cedar Rapids, 3 @ Peoria, 3 v. Cedar Rapids, 4 v. Burlington)
Peoria Chiefs: 31-26 (5.5) 10 games remaining (Tonight v. Clinton, 3 v. Quad Cities, 3 @ Clinton, 3 @ Cedar Rapids)
Beloit & Quad Cities still have doubleheader games left. They both play a twin-bill against Burlington. Beloit plays a pair of games at Burlington this Sunday while Quad Cities will play 2 against the Bees in Davenport on June 15.