For the second game in a row the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers found themselves unable to solve the puzzle that is the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitching staff. After recording just four-hits in a 4-0 loss to the visitors Monday night, the home team was held to just 2-hits in a 3-2 loss Tuesday afternoon.
Luke Westphal was making his first start for the Kernels, facing off against David Burkhalter. Cedar Rapids got a run in the top of the first inning against the Timber Rattlers starter when Tanner English led off with a double and scored on a line drive base hit by Zack Larson.
The lead did not last long as Wisconsin got a run of their own in the bottom of the first inning. Brandon Diaz led off by drawing a walk and stole second base, his 17th of the season. Gregory Munoz laid down a perfect sacrifice moving Diaz to third and he came around to score on a ground out by Elvis Rubio.
Tied at one, the Cedar Rapids Kernels jumped right back in front in the top of the second inning. Burkhalter retired the first two hitters of the inning, then gave up a single to T.J. White, who moved to second on a throwing error. A wild pitch moved White to third and he scored on a line drive single up the middle by Brian Navarreto to give the Kernels the 2-1 lead.
From there both pitching staffs looked solid into the seventh inning. Burkhalter (1-5) retired six of the next seven batters he faced, with the only runner who reached base finding first on an error.
Westphal was brilliant following the first inning run, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters he faced. The only runners to reach against him were a fourth inning single and a fifth inning walk. Both came with one out. Westphal (1-0) finished with 5 innings pitched, just 1 hit allowed, 2 walks, and 1 earned run. He struck out 5.
Kori Medeiros took over for Burkhalter and pitched two solid innings, allowing a hit and 3 walks, but keeping the score a one-run game.
In the top of the seventh Zach Cooper relieved and was tagged for a run. Nick Gordon doubled with one out and moved to third on a Larson single. A sacrifice fly by Alex Real scored Gordon to make it 3-1.
Randy LeBlanc had relieved Westphal and was an absolute beast. He allowed just 1 hit in 3 innings of work, while striking out 2. The outing lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.59.
In the ninth Cedar Rapids brought in Cameron Booser to close the game out, but he found himself in a little trouble. Mitch Meyer was hit by a pitch and Brandon Diaz walked to begin the inning. A sacrifice by Munoz moved both runners into scoring position, and a ground out by Rubio scored Meyer to cut the lead to one. Booser was laboring with the tying run just 90-feet away, but he remained poised, getting Dustin DeMuth to pop out to end the game. It was Booser’s eighth save of the season.
Navarreto was 3-4 with an RBI for Cedar Rapids. Larson had 2 hits and an RBI. Rubio had one of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers two hits and both RBI.
These same two clubs take to the field tomorrow evening at 7:05 local time. Felix Jorge (3-3, 2.37) will go for the Kernels against Zach Hirsh (2-4, 3.15).
By Robert Pannier