Joe Gray Jr had a heck of a day for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Sunday afternoon at PG Cares Field against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Gray homered twice, doubled once, and drove in six runs for the Rattlers. However, Wisconsin couldn’t hold a 5-1 lead and dropped a 9-6 to the first-place Kernels.
Wisconsin (14-30) jumped in front when Joe Gray Jr jumped on a 3-2 pitch from Kernels starting pitcher Christian MacLeod for a three-run home run in the top of the first inning.
Cedar Rapids (25-20) got an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning against Wisconsin starter Tyler Woessner. Tanner Schobel reached on an error to start the inning. Schobel stole second and went to third on a wild pitch by Woessner. Noah Miller singled with two outs to drive in Schobel.
Gray got that run back plus one more when he lined a 2-2 pitch from Malik Barrington just over the wall in left for his second home run of the game.
The Kernels scored more two-out runs in the third and fourth innings. In the third, Emmanuel Rodriguez walked with one out, but was still at first with two outs. Then, Noah Cardenas and Miller had back-to-back RBI doubles. In the fourth, Jose Salas started the inning with a double, but was at third with two outs. Schobel singled to knock in Salas to pull the Kernels to within 5-4.
Gray gave the Rattlers a little more breathing room in the top of the fifth. Metzinger walked with two outs and Gray hit a high pop up to right. Kyler Fedko, who was playing deep, ran a long way and got a glover on the ball. However, he could not hold on for the out. Metzinger scored as Gray slid into second with a double. An error on the throw to second let Gray take third, but he was left there when the inning ended. Wisconsin would only get one more baserunner in the game and never got another into scoring position.
Things got very weird in the bottom of the fifth inning. Cardenas walked and Miller singled with one out against Ryan Brady. The Rattler reliever had Misael Urbina on a 1-2 count and thought he had a strikeout on a check swing, but the pitch was ruled a ball and no swing on an appeal. Brady missed with the next pitch for ball three. However, Urbina thought it was ball four and started jogging to first. The two runners on base also started walking to the next base as they had lost track of the count, too. By the time Wisconsin realized that the play should have been live both Cardenas and Miller had “stolen” a base to get into scoring position.
Urbina, who had to walk back to the plate for the payoff pitch, smacked the next pitch to left for an RBI single. Salas tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
Karlos Morales entered the game for the bottom of the sixth. He walked two of the first three batters he faced and threw a wild pitch with Cardenas at the plate to put runners in scoring position. Cardenas singled to left to drive in two runs to give the Kernels the lead. Urbina had a two-out RBI single later in the inning and the Kernels were up 9-6.
Not only did Gray drive in all six of Wisconsin’s runs, but he also had three of the Rattlers four hits.
Cedar Rapids went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the game.
The teams split the six-game series with Wisconsin winning the first three games and the Kernels winning the final three. The teams do not meet again in the first half of the season.
The Timber Rattlers are off for Memorial Day. They return home to start a six-game series with the Peoria Chiefs on Tuesday night with a 6:40pm first pitch. Alexander Cornielle (0-1, 5.63) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers.
Tuesday’s game may start at 6:40pm, but the festivities begin when the gates to Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium open at 5:00pm.