The Cedar Rapids Kernels outhit the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 10-8 on Friday night at Perfect Game Field. However, it was the Rattlers who got the key hits and the key outs when they needed them to defeat the first place Kernels.
Wisconsin (27-16) scored in the second inning for the early lead. Tristan Peters singled, stole second, and took third on a fly ball to right. Darrien Miller smashed a single off the glove of Aaron Sabato at first base to score Peters.
Sabato hit a lead-off home run in the bottom of the fourth for the Kernels (28-15) to tie the score 1-1.
The homer by Sabato broke Wisconsin starting pitcher Brandon Knarr’s scoreless inning streak at 16-1/3 innings.
The Timber Rattlers offense responded in the top of the fifth inning with a four-run outburst. Ethan Murray started the inning with a single. Then, Micah Bello launched a home run to left. Bello’s first Midwest League home run gave the Rattlers a 3-1 lead. Later in the inning, Peters tripled off the wall in right-center with two outs to score two runs and Wisconsin was up 5-1.
The Kernels stormed back in the bottom of the fifth against Knarr as they loaded the bases with no outs on a single, a double, and a walk. Knarr got the first out but gave up a two-run single to Christian Encarnacion-Strand and another walk to reload the bases.
Knarr regrouped and got a strikeout and a flyout to end the inning. Knarr allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts and left with the lead to put himself in position for a win in his seventh consecutive start.
Wisconsin caught a break in the top of the sixth and made the most of it. Murray was at first base with one out and was running on a pitch to Bello, who sent a soft popup to Sabato at first. Sabato caught the ball and stepped on first for an apparent inning-ending double play. However, catcher’s interference was called to put Bello at first and Murray at second.
A wild pitch by Kernels reliever Tyler Palm moved both runners up a base. A second wild pitch let Murray score and moved Bello to third. Then, Jadher Areinamo, who was making his Timber Rattlers debut as the starting second baseman, doubled to center to score Bello and the Rattlers were up 7-3.
Kent Hasler was the first reliever out of the Wisconsin bullpen. He pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh inning with no hits, a walk, and three strikeouts.
Cam Robinson closed out the game with two scoreless innings from the Rattlers pen. He allowed two hits, struck out two, and extended his personal scoreless innings streak to 14-1/3 innings.
The win pulled Wisconsin back to within one game of the Kernels for the Western Division lead. Additionally, the South Bend Cubs beat the Great Lakes Loons 11-4 on Friday night. The Cubs are in third place in the division and trail the Kernels by two games. There are 23 games remaining in the first half of the season with the division winner clinching a Midwest League playoff berth.
Knarr picked up the win and he is 7-1 in nine starts this season. He leads the Midwest League in wins.