Chad Tracy didn’t want to leave without a win.
Tracy, the Los Angeles Angels’ field coordinator, managed the Burlington Bees this weekend to fill in for a vacationing Jack Howell.
The first three games, on Thursday and then in Saturday’s doubleheader, the Bees lost. Two of those defeats were by one run, one was by two.
This was Tracy’s last chance to get a victory, and the Bees obliged with one of those comebacks that felt so much like the first half.
Justin Jones’ two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning gave Burlington a 7-6 win over the Kane County Cougars in Sunday’s Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.
It was the first victory in the second half for the Bees, who missed out on the second first-half playoff spot in the Western Division because of a tiebreaker.
“It’s a huge one,” said Jones, who pounded a 2-1 down-and-in fastball from Kane County reliever Kai-Wei Lin (2-2) out for the game-winner. “All-Star break, you come back, start fresh, and then you lose the first three games, that’s tough.”
The Bees rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game with a three-run ninth inning.
Geraldo Perdomo’s double in the 10th inning drove in Joey Rose to give Kane County a 6-5 lead. But the Bees got out of the inning when Eduardo Diaz lined into a double play.
Connor Fitzsimons was on second base under Minor League Baseball’s extra-inning rule to start the Bees’ half of the 10th. Tracy didn’t give much thought to bunting, and Jones was OK with that.
“It’s a situation where a lot of teams would bunt,” Jones said. “Down one, got to get a run. But not us.”
“I wanted to let him hit,” Tracy said. “Obviously, if you’re the home team, and they only push one across, you can obviously play for the bunt. As long as you keep the tie at home, you kind of have the advantage. That being said, I just felt like, ‘Let’s go for the win.’ It was as simple as that.
“I liked the at-bats Jonesy had taken today. I wanted to see him go get it.”
He did, touching off a wild celebration at home plate, with Jones throwing his helmet into the air before being mobbed by teammates.
“Big win, for sure,” Jones said.
The Bees have been all about close games all season. They’re 20-11 in one-run games, tied for second in wins among all minor league teams. They are now 7-2 in extra-inning games, tied with nine other teams for the second-most wins.
“They just stayed with it,” Tracy said. “They’re a resilient group — they have been all year.”
“This entire year, this team has been fighting, battling, come-from-behind victories,” Jones said. “A lot of close games. It felt good to win one.”
Tracy had wanted the Bees to put more pressure on the Cougars offensively after only brief outbursts in the first two games. Burlington had runners on base in every inning, but only got single runs in the first and third innings.
The frustration was apparent when the Bees loaded the bases with one out in the second inning. Jordyn Adams hit a hard grounder that looked like it was going to get into center field. But Perdomo, playing shortstop, cut the ball off up the middle and flipped the ball to second baseman Blaze Alexander. Alexander made the bare-handed catch on the throw to get the force out, then threw to first to catch Adams by a step.
It was the only way the Cougars were going to be able to catch the speedy Adams, and it turned into a perfect play.
“After that, I thought we went quiet for a while,” Tracy said.
Then came the eighth inning.
Tim Millard singled to open the inning, then moved to second on Kevin Maitan’s one-out single. Nonie Williams hit a line drive that center fielder Alek Thomas looked to have a play on, but Thomas slipped and the ball fell in front of him. Millard and Maitan scored to cut the lead to 5-4.
The Bees had runners on first and third with two outs when Harrison Wenson hit a hard grounder to third baseman Buddy Kennedy. But the ball bounced up and hit Kennedy in the face. Kennedy picked the ball up, then threw wildly to first as the tying run scored.
“All of a sudden, around the eighth, we started piecing together quality at-bats,” Tracy said. “Put more traffic out there. We got some help with mistakes, obviously, but we helped them out, too, today.”
Tyler Smith (5-1) was the winning pitcher.
Tracy was happy to leave town with a victory.
“It was awesome,” he said, smiling.
ON DECK: The Bees open a two-game home series with the Quad Cities River Bandits on Tuesday, with Monday being a league-wide off day.
NOTES: Thomas, who hit a three-run home run to give Kane County the lead in the third inning, robbed Maitan of a home run to start the bottom of the inning by making a leaping catch at the wall in right-center field. … Adams has a nine-game on-base streak after his single to lead off the first inning. … Attendance was 661.
Photo: Justin Jones heads into the celebration after hitting the game-winning two-run home run in the 10th inning.
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