2013 MWL Final 4

All four of the Midwest League’s first round playoff series ended in sweeps on Thursday night.

The Gazette-KCRG photo by Jim Slosiarek

The Gazette-KCRG photo by Jim Slosiarek

In the West:

Quad Cities got past Cedar Rapids:

The Bandits walked into Perfect Game Field on Thursday night and walked out with a 4-2 victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels and a sweep of their opening-round best-of-three series in the Midwest League playoffs.

The Kernels had the best overall record and the best home record of any team in the league this season, but they went 6-13 against Quad-Cities. They managed to collect just three runs and eight hits in the two-game set.

And for the Cedar Rapids view of things…

Great season ends for Kernels

Some year, the Cedar Rapids Kernels will end what has become a two-decade drought and win the Midwest League championship. But it won’t be this year.

The Quad Cities River Bandits completed a sweep of the Kernels Thursday night via a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of this first-round playoff series.

A very nice midweek crowd of 2,660 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium seemed more than ready to make noise, but their boys ended up not giving them a whole lot to cheer about. So many wins this season, but none when rings were on the line.

“We accomplished so much. Growth from every player,” said Kernels catcher Michael Quesada. “As a person and a player, everyone just grew up a whole lot this season. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but we definitely battled. We never, ever gave up. This happens sometimes. Some teams just have your number. We ran into the wrong team at the wrong time.”

Quad Cities faces Beloit in the Western Division finals beginning Saturday. The River Bandits went 12-6 against Cedar Rapids this season, the only team in the division to have a winning record against a club that won a league-high 88 games, second-most in club history.

Beloit swept Clinton out of the postseason:

Beloit took the lead in the fourth when it scored two runs on a throwing error by LumberKings pitcher Dylan Unsworth, then tore into relief pitcher Jochi Ogando in the fifth. John Wooten drove in a pair of runs with a line drive double to left, then scored himself on an error by Clinton shortstop Brock Hebert.

Dylan Covey pitched six strong innings to get the win for the Snappers, allowing only three baserunners.

In the East:

Fort Wayne moved past Bowling Green

The TinCaps beat Bowling Green 9-5 on Thursday to sweep a best-of-three playoff series against the Hot Rods and move on to the Eastern Division finals. Fort Wayne will play South Bend in Game 1 at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Parkview Field.

All this after finishing the second half 12 games below .500 and watching the Hot Rods surge to the overall Midwest League Eastern Division lead.

“Not surprised at all,” TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. “I got no doubt in my team.”

Fort Wayne starter Zach Eflin, the Midwest League leader in ERA among starters, put on another strong performance in front of a crowd of 4,377 at Parkview Field. The 19-year-old went six innings and gave up five hits, two earned runs and one walk while striking out five.

“We’re finally starting to play as a family,” Eflin said. “We really started to pick it up and cherish it.”

South Bend defeated Great Lakes

“We had one menace the whole season,” South Bend manager Mark Haley said. “Great Lakes owned us (taking the regular-season series 10-5). They kicked our butts. That works towards your favor, sometimes. Guys were ready to show what they really are. When it means something, we’re really going to go at it, and that’s exactly what our players did. I’m very happy with them. They stepped up.”

[Braden] Shipley, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (15th overall), worked seven innings, allowing one run (unearned) and two hits. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander from Medford, Ore., struck out four and walked three.

And a reminder why this is a special season for Mark Haley

“This one here was really special, after all I’d been through the last year and a half,” Haley said before the Hawks’ 5-1 first-round playoff clinching win over Great Lakes. “It’s been nothing but hospitals and ailments. This one here has to go to my wife (Ann). She’s the one that got me going in times … 18 days in a coma; ileostomy; colostomy; stomach mesh; staph infection. Then, to top it all off, a heart attack. All in a year in a half.

“People say, ‘Aw, you’ve been through a lot.’ Heck, I just laid there in bed watching fishing shows and ‘Duck Dynasty.’ I’m laying there having people wait on me. Who’s raising the family? Who’s taking care of the bills? Who’s going to work? She’s the one doing it. When I’m having trouble, she’s pushing me.”

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