How it Happened
The early innings of the game dragged: it took nearly an hour to play the first two innings and there was little energy in the stadium, in large part because of the oppressive heat and humidity during the game.
The Kernels struck first in the second inning, picking up a couple of runs against TinCaps starter Cullen Dana, who was making his Midwest League debut after throwing 15 shutout innings at short-season Tri-City. The Kernels made him work and he threw more than 25 pitches in a scoreless first inning. He flashed some decent stuff, but Cedar Rapids was a step up from the Low-A competition he had been pitching against.
The TinCaps nearly got even in the bottom of the inning when they loaded the bases with one out and Tucupita Marcano coming to the plate. Marcano hit the ball hard and it seemed ticketed for right field, but second baseman Ricky De La Torre leaped and snared the line drive before coming down and throwing to first to double off Tyler Benson and choke off the threat.
With that near escape still fresh in their minds, the Kernels extended their advantage in the third when center-fielder Gilberto Celestino turned on a fastball and flicked it almost one-handed 393 feet to left-center for his sixth home run of the season. The ball left his bat at 104 mph and gave Cedar Rapids a 3-0 lead.
The TinCaps got a run back with some small-ball in the bottom half as Jawuan Harris singled to right, stole second easily and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. In the fourth, however, the Kernels' first baseman, Albee Weiss, ripped a line drive homer 386 feet to left – his first in the Midwest League after he hit nine in 23 rookie-ball games this season – and TinCaps reliever Austin Smith surrendered another run with the help of a balk and a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
At that point, the TinCaps looked sluggish, the game was moving at a snail's pace and the crowd was almost completely silent. Fort Wayne finally gave the fans who braved the heat something to cheer about in the bottom of the fourth, however, when the home team put together a huge rally, sending 10 hitters to the plate and pushing six runs across.
Marcano got the run-scoring started when he lofted a fly ball to left with the bases loaded that went for a sacrifice fly. That was the second out, though and it seemed like the rally might end there. Instead, however, Jawuan Harris came through with a booming double into the left-field corner, bringing in two runs and slicing the deficit to 5-4. That brought the crowd to its feet for the first time, but the rally didn't stop there. Agustin Ruiz followed with a seeing-eye ground-ball single through the shift on the right side, bringing in Harris to knot the score at 5. A Dwanya Williams-Sutton walk then brought backup catcher Juan Fernandez to the plate with two on.
Fernandez fell behind 1-2, but he didn't try to do too much and sliced an outside pitch the other way down the right-field line. The ball rattled around in the corner and Fernandez sprinted out of the box, giving him a chance to race all the way around to third for a two-run triple that put the TinCaps in front 7-5, their first lead of the day. Suddenly the crowd was loud and involved after two of the biggest hits in recent weeks for the TinCaps.
The lead didn't last, however. The Kernels rallied against reliever Brandon Komar in the sixth, with Celestino and Spencer Steer each coming up with RBI singles to even the score at 7 and quiet the crowd once again.
The scored remained tied until the ninth, when Adrian Martinez came in to pitch for the TinCaps. The Kernels put two runners on with two outs and Weiss coming to the plate already boasting a homer, double and three runs scored. Martinez and the big slugger battled and Martinez's fastball reached 97 mph in the at-bat. He finally got Weiss swinging on a curveball in the dirt, a terrific pitch to keep the game tied.
In the bottom of the ninth, the TinCaps wasted no time in threatening. Justin Lopez led off with a soft single to right and Luke Becker dropped down a nearly-perfect bunt that he easily beat out for a single to put two runners on base. Later in the inning, Jawuan Harris came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He grounded sharply to short, but the play should have been easy. Instead, shortstop Wander Javier watched it hit off the heel of his glove and bounce away for a game-ending error and the TinCaps began a joyous celebration beyond second base.
Player of the Game: Jawuan Harris
Harris went 2 for 5 with a double, two runs scored, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and the game-winning at-bat. He has 21 steals this season, tied for third in the league. He has three multi-hit games in the last four and has back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time since April 23-25. He played hero for the second time in four games after his game-tying grand slam Wednesday.
Facts and Figures
The Kernels are 7-8 at home in the second half, but 10-4 on the road, including today. ... The game took three hours and 48 minutes. There were no 1-2-3 innings until the top of the seventh and the TinCaps did not go 1-2-3 in the game. ... Dana went three innings, giving up three runs on three hits while striking out two and walking two in his first Midwest League start. The earned runs he surrendered were the first he'd given up since 2017 when he was a pitcher at Seton Hall. ... Benson, the TinCaps' designated hitter, went 3 for 3 with a triple, double, walk and run scored. The three hits were his first hits with the TinCaps since Aug. 3, 2017. He's spent time at Low-A, rookie ball and High-A since then. ... Becker walked twice and reached base three times. Lopez had two hits. ... Martinez got the win to improve to 4-3.
These teams will play the finale of their three-game series Monday at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send ace left-hander Joey Cantillo (6-3, 2.03 ERA) to the mound. The 19-year-old is coming off another terrific start in which he gave up one run in six innings and struck out eight. He leads qualified Midwest League pitchers in ERA by more than half a run and also leads in K/BB rate. The Kernels will counter with 24-year-old right-hander Tyler Palm (2-5, 3.82 ERA). Palm is 6-foot-9.