CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Kernels was the third straight game decided by 1 run between two of the top teams in the Western Division.
The Cougars (28-20, 73-45) picked up momentum late in the game but stranded the tying run at second as the Kernels (28-20, 59-59) moved back into a tie for first place.
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In the eighth inning, Cedar Rapids loaded the bases with nobody out to knock reliever David Garner out of the game. With the Cougars already trailing 3-2, Jasvir Rakkar took the mound.
Rakkar's first opponent Alex Swim bounced a grounder to Daniel Lockhart, who quickly threw home to barely get the lead runner for the first out. Rakkar went on to strikeout Max Murphy and retire JD Williams on a flyball. Rakkar ended the inning unscathed, but the Cougars were down to their last three outs.
Jeffrey Baez sparked some life with a one-out double in the ninth but stayed at second base as Lockhart struck out and Carlos Penalver fouled out to end the game.
The Cougars grabbed their first run in the fifth with Baez at second and Lockhart squaring up for a bunt. The sacrifice worked, but Lewis Thorpe's throwing error to first base allowed Baez to score and tie the game. Lewis' (3-2) errant throw was the only mistake he made as he tossed 6 innings with 3 hits, 7 strikeouts and only the 1 unearned run.
With runners at first and third, the Cougars used a double steal to plate another run. Penalver took off for second base on the throw while Lockhart dashed home. Penalver slid in safely allowing Lockhart to score standing up.
All of Cedar Rapids' runs came on the longball as Logan Wade and Max Murphy took Tyler Ihrig (1-1) deep. The Cougars' left-hander suffered the loss in his second outing with the team despite tossing a quality start.
Nick Burdi (4) earned the save.
The series wraps up Sunday as Minnesota Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco will make a rehab start for Cedar Rapids. Ben Wells (1-0, 2.93) will start for the Cougars. First pitch from Perfect Game Field is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.