The Cedar Rapids Kernels hit a pair of solo homers and held the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to one run for a 4-1 victory in game one of the series between the teams at Rise 2 Greatness Field.
Wisconsin (21-22 second half, 47-60 overall) had chances to score early in the game against Kernels starting pitcher Kyle Jones. Luis Lara, in his Timber Rattlers debut, drew a lead-off walk and stole second in the first inning. Jones struck out the next two batters and ended the inning on a grounder to second.
In the third, the Rattlers had a runner at first after a lead-off walk to Hendry Mendez. However, he was still at first with two outs. Jesse Winker, in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment from the Milwaukee Brewers, singled and Brock Wilken walked to load the bases. Mike Boeve hit a hard grounder that shortstop Owen Miller grabbed with diving, backhanded stab. Instead of a two-run single and a Wisconsin lead, Miller turned the sharply hit ball into a 6-3 grounder to end the inning.
Jorel Ortega gave the Kernels (27-16, 67-42) a 1-0 lead with a long, solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
In the top of the fifth, Luis Lara singled, stole second, and took third on an error with one out. However, the Rattlers couldn’t cash in the opportunity. Winker popped out to left for the second out and it wasn’t deep enough to score Lara. Wilken was next and his line drive to deep left-center was run down by left fielder Misael Urbina for the final out.
Cedar Rapids added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Carson McCusker hit a lead-off homer to left-center. The Kernels had runners at first and third after back-to-back, one-out singles. Wisconsin starting pitcher Nate Peterson got Ben Ross to hit a slow grounder to short.
Nick Merkel kept the Kernels off the board with two scoreless innings and four strikeouts out of the Timber Rattlers bullpen to keep the game close.
However, Cedar Rapids added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth as Justin King walked in a run before stranding the bases loaded.
The Rattlers had one more chance in the top of the ninth and made it interesting. Boeve singled against Malik Barrington to start the frame. Joe Gray Jr singled with Boeve at second with two outs to put runners at the corners. Then, Mendez ripped a hit to right to score Boeve and send Gray to third base. The hit should have brought the potential tying run to the plate. However, Mendez tried to stretch the single into a double. Kala’i Rosario fired a strike to second and Mendez was out by a lot for the final out of the game.
The Kernels have hit 109 homers this season. They have thirteen homers in thirteen games against the Timber Rattlers in 2023.
Winker made the start at first base. He was 1-for-3 at the plate and made a nice diving catch of a line drive to take a hit away from Jose Salas in the fifth inning before leaving the game after seven innings. He is scheduled to be in the lineup for the Timber Rattlers again on Wednesday.
Game two of the series is Wednesday night at Rise 2 Greatness Field. Cameron Wagoner (4-11, 6.84) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Christian MacLeod (4-0, 3.86) is set to start for the Kernels. Game time is 6:35pm.