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MWL: Kernels Walk Off, Continue Streak

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA The Cedar Rapids Kernels scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth and picked up a walk-off win for the second time this year in a 5-4 win Monday over the South Bend Silver Hawks at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The bottom of the ninth inning began with the Silver Hawks leading 4-2.  Joel Licon started the inning with a walk, and pinch-hitter Logan Wade singled to center.  Jeremias Pineda flew out to center for the first out after working the count to 3-2.  Jason Kanzler, playing in his first home game, singled to score Licon and make the score 4-3.  Another single, this one from Tanner Vavra, would load the bases.  The second walk of the inning was drawn by Zack Larson, which scored Wade to tie the game 4-4.  The Kernels capped off the comeback when Mitch Garver knocked the ball back to pitcher Daniel Gibson. The ball deflected off Gibson's glove towards shortstop Andrew Velazquez, allowing Kanzler to score on the infield single for the win.  Gibson (0-2) was charged with the loss and a blown save.

The victory was the Kernels' fifth come-from-behind win of the season and also put the Kernels alone in first place for the first time this season.

The Silver Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning, utilizing just two hits.  Joe Munoz would reach base on a strike-three wild pitch, and Michael Perez would take first on a walk.  Andrew Velazquez, pinch-hitting for Colin Bray, singled through the right side to put South Bend ahead 1-0.  Zach Esquerra then clubbed a double to deep center field, plating Perez and Velazquez to make it 3-0.

The Kernels would immediately slice into the South Bend lead in the bottom of the second.  Mitch Garver began the frame with a triple to left center field, and was brought home to score on an RBI single by Bryan Haar, his eighth run batted in of the season.

South Bend extended the lead back to three runs in the top of the fourth inning.  Munoz led off the inning with a double to deep center field.  After a groundout moved Munoz over to third, a fielding error off the bat of Velazquez would give the Silver Hawks a 4-1 lead.

The outing of Kernels starter Aaron Slegers lasted five innings, with the 6-foot-10 right-hander allowing four runs, three of which were earned, for hits, and one walk while striking out three.

The Kernels reduced the South Bend lead back to two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.  The inning began with a double from Tanner Vavra, who advanced to third base on a flyout by Mitch Garver.  A walk by Bryan Haar would end the night of South Bend starter Aaron Blair.  Blair, the 36th pick of the 2013 MLB Draft, surrendered two earned runs on four hits, striking out seven Kernels and walking three.  Michael Quesada would then drill an RBI single to center to make the score 4-2. However, the Kernels would strand two runners on base to end the inning.

Cedar Rapids would also threaten in the bottom of the eighth inning.  A single by Mitch Garver and a double by Haar, who reached in all four of his plate appearances, put the tying run in scoring position.  South Bend reliever JR Bradley would extinguish the scoring chance by forcing a groundout from Michael Quesada.

The two Kernels relief pitchers - Brandon Bixler and Hudson Boyd - were terrific out of the bullpen. The Florida-natives combined for a hitless final four innings, allowing just two base runners, both on walks.  Boyd (2-0) earned the win for his efforts, his second of the season.  Boyd was also the winning pitcher in the Kernels' first walk-off win on Opening Night.

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