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Ruoff Mortgage Playoff Preview - Division Series

Cubs and Kernels Set to Battle in Midwest League Division Series
September 12, 2022

It is officially time! Playoff baseball is coming back to Downtown South Bend and Four Winds Field for the first time since the South Bend Cubs went on their undefeated postseason run to the Midwest League Championship in 2019. CLICK HERE FOR GAME 1 TICKETS Manager Lance Rymel has led

It is officially time! Playoff baseball is coming back to Downtown South Bend and Four Winds Field for the first time since the South Bend Cubs went on their undefeated postseason run to the Midwest League Championship in 2019.


Manager Lance Rymel has led the Cubs to the Second Half Western Division Championship, and now the Cubs will match-up with the First Half champ from the West, the Cedar Rapids Kernels. These two ball clubs in South Bend and Cedar Rapids are all too familiar with one another, however, as they just wrapped up a five-game series this past week in Iowa.

South Bend clinched their spot in the postseason two Saturday’s ago, so the series in Cedar Rapids was all about momentum. The Cubs won the final two games of that series, and the guys in the clubhouse are gearing to go as they try and bring home another Midwest League Title.

While recognizing the importance of taking as many games as possible against the Kernels this past week, the Cubs also got their big guys plenty of rest heading into the big dash coming up in the next couple of weeks. Of course, the Midwest League Postseason now looks a little different from 2019. As opposed to three series, there is just the Division Round, and the Championship Series. Still, three-game sets are never easy, especially when it is playoff time.

The opportunity that South Bend has to host Game 1 at Four Winds Field is crucial. Remember, in 2019, the Cubs had every Game 1 of that postseason at home. Buddy Bailey’s team went 7-0 in the playoffs. A big part of that was being able to take care of business at home, then put all the pressure on the other squad when they took their bus ride home. Same case here.

If the Cubs can win a big one on Tuesday night, they’ll be given the chance to sweep the Kernels at their place on Thursday.

Cedar Rapids has lost quite a bit of their roster that won them their First Half Division Championship, but still this is a dangerous Kernels squad. Guys like Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Aaron Sabato, and Yunior Severino are all either at Double-A, or were traded at the deadline by the Minnesota Twins.

For the South Bend roster, Opening Day players such as Owen Caissie, Yohendrick Pinango, Fabian Pertuz, Luis Verdugo, Kohl Franklin, and Daniel Palencia are all looking to complete a full-season with a ring. But pair those guys with later arriving players like Jordan Nwogu, Porter Hodge, Luis Devers, Casey Opitz, and others, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous playoff squad.

In terms of storylines to watch, the Game 1 pitching match-up looks like a heavyweight bout. Luis Devers goes for the Cubs while David Festa takes the hill for Cedar Rapids. Last time Festa pitched at Four Winds Field, he went six scoreless innings on June 9 with a walk and eight strikeouts. He pitched again versus South Bend this past week, and did not cruise as easily. The Cubs got to him with four runs in 6.2 innings. Even not having his best stuff, Festa still didn’t walk a Cub. He’s a big, tall, and lanky righty with some really good stuff. The same can go for Devers.

The May Chicago Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month, Devers, is certainly contending for the Chicago Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He was also just named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Month for August. Lately, his three-pitch mix has been off the charts good. That mid-90s sinking fastball, a wicked slider, plus a vanishing changeup have given Devers plenty of tools to keep hitters off-balanced. If he can do the same on Tuesday, the Cubs will have a great chance at a 1-0 series lead.

In the lineup, Jordan Nwogu has been terrorizing Midwest League pitching since the start of the second half. As of late though, it’s been almost automatic. Nwogu is hitting .389 in his last nine games, he had the three home run game at West Michigan just a few weeks ago, and he leads the depth of South Bend’s outfield which is packed with the likes of him, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Yohendrick Pinango, Owen Caissie, and Jonathan Sierra.

Nwogu also gives the South Bend lineup plenty of variety on where Rymel wants to place him everyday. Typically, PCA has been the everyday lead-off man, but Nwogu has shown a strong ability to hit first, clean-up, fifth, really anywhere. It’s a nice weapon to have too when you look at that Nwogu is the only right-handed hitting outfielder the Cubs currently have. With the power he possesses, plus Caissie and Pinango, then add the pop of PCA, and you’ve got a fearsome foursome that gives any pitcher nightmares on having to face one-after-another.

South Bend finished tied for first place for the year-end Midwest League West Division standings with Cedar Rapids. At one point, the Kernels were running away with that crown. The Cubs caught all the way up and settled for a 73-58 regular season record, the same as Cedar Rapids.

That would not have been possible without the collective effort of the entire South Bend Cubs roster. Look at a guy like Yeison Santana, who arrived after the Ed Howard injury, and filled in very nicely until Kevin Made was promoted from Myrtle Beach.

Behind the plate, Caleb Knight is going for his second Championship Ring with the South Bend Cubs. Knight is the only player on the Cubs roster who was on the active playoff roster when South Bend clinched their title in Clinton, Iowa. Kohl Franklin and Jonathan Sierra can also earn their second South Bend ring, as everyone on that 2019 roster received one.

Out of the bullpen, Sheldon Reed, Michael McAvene, Jake Reindl, and others have combined for lockdown performances that helped the Cubs clinch the division. A big weapon to have as well are pitchers who have the capability to pitch in long relief in case of emergencies. Joe Nahas can close games, start games, pitch in any inning, in any situation. This is a loaded roster from top to bottom.

To have the depth of Knight, Santana, Sierra, and others is massive for the playoffs. This will be an all out team effort. Let’s see if the Cubs can do it again. There’s nothing more fun than a playoff run. We saw that in 2019. It’s a special time. Soak it all in, have some fun, be loud.


Game 1 - Tuesday, September 13 - 7:05 PM ET: RHP Luis Devers vs RHP David Festa

Game 2 - Thursday, September 15 - 7:35 PM ET: RHP Porter Hodge vs. RHP Travis Adams

Game 3 (If Necessary) - Friday, September 16 - 7:35 PM ET: RHP Daniel Palencia vs. TBD

Catch the Midwest League Division Series between the Cubs and Kernels on Sports Radio 960 AM WSBT, online at, or on with Brendan King and Max Thoma on the call.

Game 1 of the Western Division Series will be broadcast LIVE on WMYS MyMichiana Channel 69 in the South Bend local area.

Thursday night's Game 2 in Cedar Rapids will be broadcast live on 96.1 FM The Ton, as opposed to 960 AM for that night only. Both games on the road would have pregame coverage beginning at 7:15 PM ET.