How it Happened
The visiting Kernels jumped on TinCaps starter Efrain Contreras as soon as the game began. The first two batters reached on singles that glanced of Fort Wayne gloves. Neither was an error, but both plays could have been made. The same could be said for the next batter, Gilberto Celestino, who ripped a line drive to left. Dwanya Williams-Sutton nearly hauled it in over his head as he sprinted back, but it glanced off his outstretched glove for an RBI double. Contreras then unleashed a wild pitch that brought Yeltsin Encarnacion in with with the second run to make it 2-0.
The TinCaps responded in the bottom half with a couple of early hits of their own. Tucupita Marcano led off with a hard-hit fly ball to deep right that got over everyone's head. Right-fielder Jared Akins couldn't corral the ball cleanly and Marcano sprinted all the way around for a sliding triple. Ethan Skender hit next and laced a line drive to right-center to make it 2-1.
The Kernels pushed their lead back to two runs in the second after a walk and a single put two on and leadoff hitter Spencer Steer lofted a sacrifice fly to center field. The score remained 3-1 into the fourth, when the TinCaps mounted a rally against starter Kai-Wei Teng.
Agustin Ruiz led off that fourth with a single and Blake Hunt followed with a solid line drive to right-center for another hit. The next play was one of the mistakes in the game. Luke Becker hit a ground ball at Steer, the shortstop, for what could have been a double play. Instead, Steer slipped as he was reaching down to field the ball and couldn't pick it up, letting everyone reach safely and scoring Ruiz. After a wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position, Michael Curry came through with a huge hit, lashing a single to left that drove in both runners and leapfrogged Fort Wayne in front 4-3. The TinCaps loaded the bases again later in the inning after a couple of walks, but Ethan Skender grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning.
That failure to increase the lead further came back to haunt the TinCaps in the fifth. The Kernels quickly knotted the score again when Daniel Ozoria led off with a single and Steer looped a double into the left-field corner, bringing in Ozoria to make it 4-all. Yeltsin Encarnacion followed and wasted no time, jumping on the first pitch and crushing to deep right, over the 15-foot high wall out there for a two-run homer. The ball left his bat at 100 mph and traveled 366 feet to give Cedar Rapids a 6-4 lead.
The TinCaps still trailed by two entering the bottom of the ninth. Lee Solomon led off the inning and promptly got hit in the back, putting the tying run on base against reliever Rickey Ramirez. Jawuan Harris followed with a seeing-eye single through the middle to put two on with nobody out and the top of the order coming up.
Leadoff hitter Tucupita Marcano dropped down a bunt in front of home plate to try to move the runners over, but the bunt was so perfectly placed that catcher Alex Isola did not even attempt a throw to first and the bases were loaded. Ethan Skender hit next and worked a full count before taking a pitch that looked to be low. Instead, the umpire called strike three for the first out. Skender was incensed and barked at the ump a couple of times as he walked back to the dugout.
That was the last of the Fort Wayne rally. Agustin Ruiz and Blake Hunt went down swinging and the TinCaps were unable to push any runs across.
Player of the Game: Yeltsin Encarnacion
The Kernels' second baseman came into the game with just one home run in 72 games this season and was slugging only .306. He went 2 for 5 with his second homer of the season, two runs scored and two RBI. He's driven in 20 runs this season.
Facts and Figures
The Kernels are 7-8 at home in the second half, but 10-3 on the road, including tonight. ... The last time Cedar Rapids played at Parkview Field was 2016. The series-opener that time was the same day as the closing of the Three Rivers Festival and a long game meant that fireworks were going off over the field during the ninth inning. ... Contreras went five innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits while striking out four and walking one. He has not pitched more than five innings in a start since June 9. ... Edwuin Bencomo and Jose Quezada each pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the TinCaps. ... The Kernels came into the game hitting .228 as a team, second-worst in the Midwest League, but had 14 hits in the game. Celestino and Ozoria had three hits apiece.
These teams will meet again Sunday afternoon for the second of a three-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 1:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 21-year-old left-hander Cullen Dana (0-0, 0.00) to the mound. He will be making his Midwest League debut after pitching 15 scoreless innings over two starts and four relief appearances at short-season Tri-City. The Kernels will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Austin Schulfer (6-4, 3.08 ERA).