The Cedar Rapids Kernels swept the Peoria Chiefs in the Western Division finals, sending them to the Midwest League Championship Series for the first time since 1994.
They will face the winner of tonight’s decisive Game 3 of the Eastern Division finals, which pits the West Michigan Whitecaps against the Lansing Lugnuts. The game begins at 7:05 p.m. ET at Lansing’s Cooley Law School Stadium.
The scheduled pitching matchup is Lugnuts LHP Shane Dawson versus Whitecaps RHP Ross Seaton. Dawson made 19 appearances (17 starts) for the Lugnuts during the regular season, going 12-4 with a 3.01 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 24 walks in 101.2 innings. (He also made five starts in High-A.) Seaton made 21 starts for the Whitecaps during the regular season, going 11-8 with a 3.73 ERA, 86 strikeouts and 16 walks in 132.2 innings. (He also made two starts in Triple-A.)
The winner of tonight’s game will host the first two games of the championship series, on Wednesday and Thursday. The series will shift to Cedar Rapids on Saturday for the third game and, if necessary, the fourth and fifth games.
The Kernels won the championship series the last time they played in it, in 1994. They beat the Rockford Royals in four games.
The 1994 Kernels featured five future major-leaguers. The most notable one was catcher Bengie Molina, who batted .281 with 3 HR and 16 RBI in 48 games. (His brothers Jose and Yadier also played in the Midwest League.) Rockford had seven future big-leaguers, including catcher Mike Sweeney (.301 BA, 10 HR, 52 RBI in 86 games) and LHP Glendon Rusch (8-5, 4.66 ERA, 122 Ks, 34 BB in 114 IP).
The Whitecaps also won the last championship series they played in, in 2007. They defeated the Beloit Snappers in five games.
The Lugnuts last won the Midwest League championship in 2003 — they also beat the Snappers, in three games — but played in the title series as recently as 2011, when they lost to the Quad Cities River Bandits in three games.