COUGARS 3, BEES 2: Duensing is sharp in three innings

Photo: Burlington Bees starter Cole Duensing pitched three shutout innings in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Kane County Cougars. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

They were innings that could help build a good finish to Cole Duensing’s season.

The Burlington Bees right-hander threw three shutout innings to start Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Kane County Cougars in a Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.

Duensing threw 59 pitches, 33 for strikes. The sixth-round pick for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft allowed just two hits, walked two, and struck out three.

“It felt good. It felt good to be back,” said Duensing. “The stuff was working. I threw strikes, and the defense made plays behind me.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for Duensing, who is 6-5 with a 4.61 earned run average with the Bees. He was the winning pitcher in a July 15 home win over Lake County, allowing two hits and one earned run in five innings. But in his next two starts, he allowed eight earned run in 4 1/3 innings, with five walks and four strikeouts.

Duensing was placed on the 7-day injured list on July 29, and in a rehab start with the Angels’ Arizona League team on Aug. 7 walked four of the five batters he faced, throwing just two strikes in 18 pitches.

“Everything was different for me tonight,” Duensing said. “The scenery, being with my teammates. It was just more confidence for me being back here, where I’ve been all year.”

Duensing was sharp and confident in this game, retiring five of the first six hitters he faced. The Cougars had runners in scoring position in each of the three innings, but Duensing pitched out of each jam.

His best work came in the third, after he allowed a single to Nick Dalesandro and a walk to David Garza. Duensing struck out Dominic Fletcher and Zack Shannon, then got Buddy Kennedy on a flyout to left field to end the inning.

“Getting ahead of hitters is something we’ve been focusing on, because it’s a lot easier for me when I get ahead in the count,” Duensing said. “I was really happy with how I executed that tonight.”

“He pounded the (strike) zone, which is what we ask,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “It seemed like if he got behind, he came back and made his pitches.”

The Bees (57-63 overall, 18-32) still took two of the three games from the Cougars (69-50, 34-16), who lead the Western Division.

The Bees only got two hits. Both of their runs came in the fourth inning without a hit. Adrian Rondon scored on an error and Francisco Del Valle came in on a bases-loaded walk.

Kane County took the lead in the seventh off losing pitcher Keith Rogalla (0-1). Fletcher doubled and moved to third on Shannon’s single, then scored on Kennedy’s single.

The Bees didn’t get a hit after Livan Soto’s single in the fifth inning.

“We faced the best pitching staff in the league, and they got the better end today,” Howell said.

The Bees, and the rest of the league, have Tuesday off. Burlington begins a 10-game road trip with Wednesday’s game at Clinton.

“We need (the day off),” Howell said. “We talked about how we played 20 days in a row, then after the off day we played 20 more. Our goal is to win every series from here on out, close strong.”

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