The regular season has ended for the Minnesota Twins minor league organizations but two affiliates continue to play on in their leagues postseason play. The Cedar Rapids Kernels, who clinched a playoff spot with their successful first half of the Midwest League season and the Chattanooga Lookouts, who clinched a playoff spot by winning the Southern League North Division title in their first half of 2015. Read on to recap how the Kernels and Lookouts have fared in their playoff runs in 2015.
Cedar Rapids KernelsThe Cedar Rapids Kernels started their playoff run in 2015 last Wednesday, Sept 9 with a showdown versus the Quad Cities River Bandits in the three game Midwest League Quarterfinals series. Quad Cities was heavily favored in this series as they had the best record in the Midwest League West Division in 2015. In Game 1 of the series, the Kernels started the series on the right foot with a 5-2 win over the River Bandits. The Kernels were led by Felix Jorge on the mound, who pitched 7 1/3 innings and only allowed two runs on the way to the win. Nick Gordon led the way from the late for Cedar Rapids, going 3-for-3, with a double, an RBI, and a run scored on the way to the win.
In Game 2 of the series, the Kernels were again led by pitching. This time it was Sam Gibbons, who was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week twice in August 2015. Gibbons hurled eight great innings of baseball and allowed just one run on four hits while striking out four. The spark from the plate for Cedar Rapids was Chris Paul who led the Kernels with three hits and three RBI, including the go-ahead two-run single in the top of the 11th inning. The Kernels won 3-1 over Quad Cities and completed the sweep of the Midwest League Quarterfinals.
The Kernels then advanced to the Midwest League Western Division Championship Series to face the Peoria Chiefs who finished 6 games in front of Cedar Rapids during the second half of the 2015 Midwest League season. In Game 1 of the series at Peoria, the Kernels were once again the benefit of great starting pitching. This time it was Keaton Steele who had a great performance with eight innings of one-run ball, striking out a career high nine batters and only allowing two hits in the Kernels 3-2 victory over the Chiefs. LaMonte Wade and Max Murphy were all the offense that the Kernels needed in this one. Wade went 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI while Murphy went 1-for-4 with a HR and 2 RBI.
In Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship Series, the Kernels returned to Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids, looking for the sweep and to move on to the Midwest League Championship Series. This game did not feature some of the dominating pitching that Cedar Rapids had shown in the playoffs to this point and the Kernels faced a big deficit early, down 4-1 after three innings. The Chiefs would only score once more after the third inning though, while the Kernels used that opportunity to get themselves back in the game. Behind Nick Gordon's speed on the bases and that bat of Chris Paul, Cedar Rapids was able to erase a 4-3 deficit going into the seventh inning and complete the comeback by taking a 5-4 lead which they did not relinquish. Four Kernels had multi-hit games en route to the win and series clinch. Nick Gordon went 3-for-5 with a double and a run, Chris Paul finished the game 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run, Edgar Corcino also went 2-for-3 with a double and a run, and Austin Diemer went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels will now face off against the West Michigan Whitecaps in the five game Midwest League Championship Series. This is the first time that the Kernels have been to the Championship Series since 1994 when they beat Rockford 3 games to 1 in a best of five series to clinch the title. Game 1 starts Wednesday at 5:35 CT at Fifth Third Ballpark. Game 2 will be on Thursday at 5:35 CT in Michigan. Game 3 will be on Saturday at 3:35pm CT at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids. If necessary, Games 4 and 5 will also be at Perfect Game Field with times TBD. Cheer on your Cedar Rapids Kernels as they try to win the Midwest League title!
The Chattanooga Lookouts started their 2015 playoff run on Thursday in the Southern League Northern Division Semifinals against their hated rival, the Montgomery Biscuits. The Biscuits were a very strong team in the second half of the season and the task was tall for Chattanooga to advance. In Game 1, the Lookouts received a decent performance on the mound from D.J. Baxendale as he pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs and striking out four but after eight innings, the Lookouts still trailed 3-2. The Southern League MVP shined again in this game, one that Lookouts fans will remember as Max Kepler drove in two runs in the bottom of the ninth to give Chattanooga a 4-3 walk-off win over Montgomery. Jorge Polanco and Heiker Meneses had multi-hit games to help the Lookouts cause, Polanco went 2-for-4 with a run and Meneses went 2-for-4 with an RBI as the Lookouts took a 1-0 lead in the series over the Biscuits.
In Game 2 of the Southern League Northern Division Semifinals, the Lookouts got a strong pitching performance from Jason Wheeler as he hurled six innings only allowing one run on three hits and struck out five. The Chattanooga bullpen let this game get away as both Nick Burdi and J.T. Chargois allowed two runs and Brandon Peterson allowed another run, taking the loss in this contest. The Lookouts received a multi-hit game from Jorge Polanco, going 2-for-5 with a HR, 2 RBI, and a run scored. D.J. Hicks also went 1-for-3 with 2 RBI in the loss as Montgomery won this one 6-5 in 11 innings to even the series at 1-1.
In Game 3 of the Southern League Northern Division Semifinals, Greg Peavy gave the Lookouts what may be the best pitching performance to date in the playoffs. Peavy pitched six innings, allowing no runs and scattering five hits while striking out five Biscuits. Shannon Wilkerson was a big part of the Chattanooga offense in this one as he went 3-for-3 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored to help lead the Lookouts to a 7-3 victory over the Biscuits to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Stephen Wickens also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with a run scored. Adam Brett Walker also went 1-for-4 with a HR and 2 RBI. The Lookouts also took advantage of sloppy play in this one as the Biscuits committed three error to contribute to the loss.
In Game 4 of the Southern League Northern Division Semifinals, David Hurlbut gave the Lookouts another strong start, pitching seven innings and only allowing one run on six hits, while striking out four. Adam Brett Walker hit his second home run in as many nights and Max Kepler contributed with 2 RBI on the way to a 4-1 Chattanooga victory over Montgomery to clinch the Southern League Northern Division Semifinals and advance to the Southern League Finals against the Biloxi Shuckers.
Game 1 of the series will start on Wednesday at 8:10pm ET in Biloxi. Game 2 will be on Thursday in Biloxi with a 8:10pm ET start time. Game 3 will return to AT&T Field on Saturday with a 7:15pm ET start. If necessary, Games 4 and 5 will also be at AT&T Field. Game 4, if played will start at 2:15pm ET on Sunday and Game 5, if played, will start at 7:15pm ET on Monday. Cheer on those Chattanooga Lookouts on their way to a Southern League title!
Check back next week as we recap how the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Chattanooga Lookouts fare on their way to title opportunities. Good luck to the Kernels and the Lookouts!