The Cedar Rapids Kernels beat the Peoria Chiefs 5-4 Sunday to sweep the Western Division finals and advance to the Midwest League Championship Series.
The Kernels were down 4-1 in the 3rd inning after a four-run frame by the Chiefs, but Cedar Rapids chipped away at Peoria’s lead and finally took command of the game in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Shortstop Nick Gordon led the Kernels offense with three hits and a stolen base. He also flashed some leather in the final play of the game. From Andrew Kahn’s MiLB.com story:
With the tying run on base, Nick Gordon started a spectacular defensive play that sent Cedar Rapids to the Midwest League Championship Series.
With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth inning, Steve Bean smacked Yorman Landa’s pitch up the middle, but shortstop Gordon made a diving snag off a short hop. From his knees, he flipped to second baseman Rafael Valera, who threw to first for the double play.
“I made sure we got one out, but once we turned the double play, it was amazing,” Gordon said. “The atmosphere was amazing. The crowd was going crazy.”
The championship series begins Wednesday in Michigan. The Kernels will take on the winner of the Eastern Division finals, which is tied 1-1 after the West Michigan Whitecaps beat the Lansing Lugnuts 8-3 Sunday. Game 3 of that series will be played Monday night in Lansing.
Joey Pankake was West Michigan’s offensive star Sunday, going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a double. Jason Leblebijian went 3-for-5 and drove in two runs for Lansing. Midwest League MVP Ryan McBroom went 3-for-5 with a double and a run batted in for the Lugnuts.