Photo: Burlington Bees center fielder Rayneldy Rosario makes the catch that turned into a double play in the sixth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
GENEVA, Ill. — It wasn’t going to be one of those usual getaway days at the end of a long season.
Their playoff hopes dashed a long time ago, the Burlington Bees didn’t go quietly in their final game of the season.
It was still a defeat, the 74th and final loss of 2019.
Buddy Kennedy’s triple in the seventh inning scored Dominic Fletcher with the go-ahead run as the Kane County Cougars clinched the Class A Midwest League’s Western Division title with a 5-4 victory over the Bees on Monday at Northwestern Medicine Field.
The Bees finished 66-74 overall, 27-43 in the second half, but this wasn’t a swing-at-the-first-pitch-and-get-home kind of game that often happens on the final Monday of the season.
Burlington had nine hits, and had runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.
“I’m proud of them,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Our hitters bounced back today, had a good game.
“Maybe there’s something to be said for how we played. We swung the bats better, and I think we were relaxed today. We didn’t put as much pressure on ourselves. We tell them that sometimes it’s that last pitch you see in a season that can make a difference going into next year. Maybe that was the approach we had today.”
It really did come down to the last pitch. Adrian Rondon singled with two outs, then Rayneldy Rosario slapped a double down the right-field line to put runners on second and third.
But Nonie Williams, who had hit the ball hard all day, hit a grounder that shortstop Blaze Alexander cleanly fielded. Alexander, who had a costly throwing error in the fifth inning that led to the Bees tying the game, made a strong throw to get Williams by a step, and the season was over.
“I thought we hit a lot of balls hard today,” Howell said. “A lot of times, it was right at someone.”
Kane County needed either a win or a Clinton loss to clinch, and the Cougars struck early with a run in the first off Bees starter Cole Duensing.
But Burlington took a 2-1 lead in the second on Justin Jones’ two-run home run to right field.
The Cougars scored two runs in the fourth. Alexander led off with a home run off his photo on the left-center field video board, then David Garza doubled to drive in Nick Dalesandro.
The Bees weren’t finished. Johan Sala walked with two outs in the fifth, then Kevin Maitan singled and Livan Soto walked. Rondon followed with a bouncer to Alexander, whose wild throw allowed Sala to score. Rosario dropped a single into left field, and the Bees led 4-3.
Kane County tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Alexander’s sacrifice fly off Luis Alvarado (4-9).
The Bees missed a first-half playoff spot by a tiebreaker, then had their second-half playoff hopes doomed with a nine-game losing streak in late July and early August.
“Today, we played really relaxed,” Howell said. “Hopefully they learned from that.”
The post-game was all about goodbyes.
“Heck, it’s a long season, so you think, ‘OK, now I get a break,'” Howell said. “But then tomorrow, I’ll think I’ve got something to do, or something to schedule out. You always hate to see a season end.”