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MWL: Kernels drop opener to West Michigan

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA -- The Cedar Rapids Kernels surrendered four runs in the top of the ninth inning and lost their third straight game in a 7-3 decision against the West Michigan Whitecaps Thursday at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels have lost three in a row, all at home.

The Kernels again saw themselves trailing in the first inning as the Whitecaps plated two runs in the game's opening frame.  The first three West Michigan hitters reached base on two walks and a single. The Kernels were able to then turn a double play, but leadoff hitter Harold Castro scored on the play. The Whitecaps made it 2-0 on a single from Ben Verlander, which scored Javier Betancourt.

The Whitecaps lead was extended to 3-0 in the third inning.  Dominic Ficociello led off the inning with a base hit, stole second base, and scored on an RBI single by Brett Harrison.

Randy Rosario's outing ended after three innings of work, and two of this three allowed runs were earned.  Rosario allowed five hits and five walks, striking out two Whitecaps hitters.  After Rosario's departure, Kernels relief pitching was dominant for the next five innings.  Brandon Bixler and Brandon Peterson combined to give up just three hits and a walk over the five innings, with six combined strikeouts.

Jason Kanzler sparked the first run of the game for the Kernels.  Kanzler began the fourth inning with a single and proceeded to steal second base.  His steal forced a throwing error from West Michigan, allowing him to advance to third.  Kanzler scored on an RBI double by Bryan Haar. The Kernels nearly tied the game in the third, but a diving catch from West Michigan center fielder Wynton Bernard robbed Bo Altobelli of a hit to end the inning.

Winning pitcher Jonathon Crawford pitched the first five innings, allowing one earned run.  Crawford allowed just three hits and didn't allow a walk.  The 2013 first round pick struck out three hitters.

The Kernels evened the game 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning.  With one out, Jeremias Pineda reached on a fielding error. Pineda was followed by Kanzler, who singled, moving Pineda to second base.  Logan Wade tied the contest on a two-run double down the right field line.  Jon Maciel retired the next two hitters to end the inning.  Maciel, who earned the win for the Whitecaps, tossed four innings, allowing just one earned run.

The decisive four runs for the Whitecaps in the ninth came off Hudson Boyd, who was assessed his first loss of the season.  The inning began on a double off the left field wall by Wynton Bernard.  A sacrifice bunt from Harold Castro moved Bernard to third with one out.  Javier Betancourt drove in what would prove to be the game-winner on a single to left field.  Boyd enduced a ground ball from Raph Rhymes, but a missed tag allowed all runners to reach safely.  The next hitter, Dominic Ficociello, singled to score Betancourt, and Rhymes scored when the ball was bobbled.  The final run was scored when Ben Verlander hit a sacrifice fly to score Ficociello.

On Friday evening at 6:35 p.m., the Kernels continue the three-game series v. West Michigan, the Midwest League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  The first 1,000 fans through the gates receive a free Kernels stocking cap, thanks for the Best Western Longbranch.  Also, the first 500 fans receive a 2014 Kernels Team Photo, thanks for Wells Fargo and Copyworks.  Its a 98.1 KHAK Friday Mug Club.  Buy a 16 oz. souvenir mug of soda or regular draft beer for $6.00, and get refills at the concession stand for just $3.00.  Bring you mug back to every Friday home game for the same refill special all season.

2013 first-round selection RHP Kohl Stewart (0-0, 5.00) is slated to start on Friday night.  RHP Buck Farmer (1-1, 2.79) is scheduled to start for West Michigan.
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