Photo: Francisco Del Valle is congratulated by Bees manager Jack Howell after his seventh-inning home run. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
Francisco Del Valle’s first home run of the night left Community Field without a doubt.
The second one didn’t have the same certainty.
“I thought it was going to be a double, bounce (against) the wall,” Del Valle said. “Then I saw it kept carrying.”
It had enough carry to go over the right-center field fence, and it took the Burlington Bees’ nine-game losing streak with it.
The first multi-homer game of Del Valle’s professional career was enough to take the Bees to a 5-3 win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Wednesday night.
Del Valle’s three-run home run capped the four-run seventh inning as the Bees (55-60 overall, 16-29 second half) snapped their longest skid of the Class A Midwest League season.
“Bottom line, you have to say Del Valle carried us,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Got us over the hump.”
Del Valle went 3-for-4 — he had a double in the second inning and a solo home run in the fourth — as part of the Bees’ nine-hit night.
It could have been another ugly night for the Bees — they committed five errors in the first four innings — but they only trailed 3-1 after Wisconsin (55-59, 24-21) threatened early and often but failed to get bigger production.
“We were pretty confident,” Del Valle said. “We trust our team. We lost nine games in a row, but we’ve won games like this. Yeah, we were pretty confident.”
“We made the pitches, got out of a couple of jams,” Howell said. “Like we’ve always talked about, it’s about limiting damage.
“I wasn’t as concerned. Yeah, it sucks to look up and see five errors. But it was just kind of basic stuff. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
The Bees’ rally came against Wisconsin reliever Joey Matulovich (0-2). Alvaro Rubalcaba walked to lead off the inning, then Livan Soto singled and Kevin Maitan was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Nonie Williams, who is batting just .116 over his last 10 games, hit a sacrifice fly on a 2-2 pitch to left-center field to score Rubalcaba.
“Nonie, who hasn’t been swinging the bat well, gets the sac fly,” Howell said. “That’s huge, with two strikes. That’s a big at-bat.”
Del Valle then hit his home run, making it only the second time this season the Bees have had two home runs by one player.
“First time (in the career), hitting two homers, that’s unbelievable,” Del Valle said.
Photo: Francisco Del Valle runs down a fly ball to end Wisconsin’s bases-loaded threat in the third inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
Del Valle has been one of the Bees’ top hitters in the last two months. He was batting just .167 on July 5, but has increased his average by 49 points since then, hitting .323 over that stretch.
Del Valle has an 11-game on-base streak, with a .338 average and a .511 on-base percentage in that stretch. Del Valle is second on the team, and 11th in the league, with 50 walks.
“He’s been on for a while,” Howell said. “He’s been coming for a long, long while. Probably a month ago he’s in the .180s.
“I think the big thing for him is not following the average. What he’s been doing was when he wasn’t getting his hits, he was still getting his walks. If you’re just looking stat-wise, he’s right where we want to get guys.”
“I did some adjustments on my leg kick, so I could see the ball better,” Del Valle said. “That’s been working for me the last few games.”
Dylan King (1-1) got his first professional win, throwing three shutout innings. He allowed one hit, walking three and striking out five. Ed Del Rosario pitched the final two innings, striking out three, for his first save of the season.
ON DECK: The two teams play a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday. Burlington’s Hector Yan (4-3) faces Wisconsin’s Victor Castaneda (3-1).
NOTES: Connor Fitzsimons had the Bees’ other multi-homer game this season, hitting two against Clinton on May 15. … Fitzsimons was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the sixth. … Fitzsimons walked in the fourth to extend his on-base streak to 10 games. … Attendance was 714.