By John Bohnenkamp
Mayky Perez walked to the Burlington Bees’ dugout, a journey from the Community Field mound that felt too long.
The crowd of 2,555 — the largest for a night game this season — was quiet, moments after being loud when Yeltsin Encarnacion came to home plate with two outs and the Bees so close to a win.
Encarnacion’s slicing double to left field emptied the bases for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a three-run line drive that led to a 5-4 win in Wednesday’s Class A Midwest League game.
Perez’s pitches in his one inning of work were electric at times. At other times, too many times in that wild ninth, they missed their spots.
A three-base error by Bees right fielder Francisco Del Valle opened the inning, walks to Daniel Ozoria and Jacob Pearson extended it, then Encarnacion’s hit finished it.
“Pretty simple what happened,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “It happens pretty fast.”
It was a stunning loss for the Bees, who fell to 4-9 in the second half after falling short of a first-half playoff spot.
The Bees led 4-2 going into the ninth, having taken the lead on Tim Millard’s three-run home run in the seventh inning.
Trevor Casanova led off with a line drive to deep right field that Del Valle misplayed at the wall for a three-base error. Perez got Ricky De La Torre on a called third strike, then he walked Ozoria. Another strikeout looking, this one by Estamy Urena, had the Bees on the verge of a win.
But Pearson followed with a walk, and Howell headed to the mound.
“I was more talking to the infield, letting them know with the quick runner at second base, just knock the ball down,” Howell said. “Keep the ball in the infield.”
Encarnacion’s hit, though, wasn’t an infield problem. Left fielder Nonie Williams had a long way to run to track down the ball as it reached the fence, and all three runs easily scored.
Perez (0-3) struck out Gabe Snyder to end the inning, the damage complete.
It was a night when all of the runs scored by the Kernels were unearned.
The Bees got solid pitching from starter Cole Duensing and reliever Austin Krzeminski. Duensing threw five innings, allowing three hits while walking three and striking out three. Krzeminski allowed one hit in three innings, striking out five.
“Krzeminski was good,” Howell said. “And Duensing was really good.”
Burlington had five hits in the first five innings, but could only get one run. Harrison Wenson led off the second inning with a double, moved to third on Alvaro Rubalcaba’s deep fly ball to left-center field, then scored on Millard’s sacrifice fly.
The Bees struck in the seventh inning off Kernels’ reliever J.T. Perez. Wenson doubled with one out, then Rubalcaba walked. Millard then crushed a pitch over the left-field fence, and Burlington had the lead.
“We got the big blow to give us the lead,” Howell said.
The Bees seemed in a position to get more runs. Justin Jones followed with a single, and then Morgan McCullough was hit by a pitch. But the inning ended when Jordyn Adams struck out and McCullough was thrown out trying to steal second.
Brian Rapp (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Moises Gomez pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to gain his fifth save of the season.
ON DECK: The four-game series moves to Cedar Rapids for a 5:05 p.m. game on Thursday. Burlington’s Luis Alvarado (3-4, 2.59 ERA) faces Cedar Rapids’ Luis Rijo (1-5, 2.55).
NOTES: Encarnacion is hitting .406 in nine games against the Bees this season. He was 3-for-5 in this game. … Wenson was 2-for-4. He is batting .275 since June 1.
Photo: Tim Millard rounds the bases after his three-run home run in the seventh inning. Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees