You wouldn't think 1,863 baseball fans could make so much noise at a ballpark, but the enthusiastic crowd at Veterans Memorial Stadium tried to will the Cedar Rapids Kernels to the Midwest League championship in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday afternoon with their lungs and hearts.
Unfortunately for the Kernels, beat-up catcher Brian Navarreto struck out with the bases loaded and now Cedar Rapids will face West Michigan in the fifth and final game of the Midwest League finals at the stadium Monday night at 6:35.
The Whitecaps escaped Sunday, 2-1, after the Kernels wasted a prime opportunity to win their first league title since 1994.
The Kernels wore somber but determined expressions as they filed into the clubhouse after the game.
"Keep your heads up, boys. Keep your heads up," Manager Jake Mauer told them, trying to maintain their focus and enthusiasm for one more ballgame. "This is why we're here. Nine more innings tomorrow. Up, Up, Up!"
Navarreto, the hero of the Kernels' Game 4 victory Saturday, sat quietly in the corner of the locker room Sunday, his head down while he studied his cell phone. Navarreto got walloped by a pair of foul tips in the top of the eighth inning, once off his head and once off his shoulder, yet stayed in the game.