By John Bohnenkamp
Gary McClure thought his team gave one away on Thursday night.
The Burlington Bees’ 10-8 loss to the Clinton LumberKings in a Prospect League game at Community Field bothered their manager, because of what his team didn’t do.
Bees pitchers allowed seven walks and the defense committed two errors that led to three unearned runs.
A five-run sixth inning by the LumberKings (8-5) gave them control, and then two runs in the top of the ninth killed any momentum the Bees had after a two-run seventh inning closed their deficit to 8-7.
The walks and errors were just too consuming.
“When that happens, you put yourself in a situation to fail, and that’s what happened,” McClure said. “Both innings that they had multiple runs, we didn’t make a play we should have made. We’re out of both those innings with maybe one run. The bottom line is to win at baseball at a high level, you’ve got to pitch and you’ve got to play defense. When you do that, you have a chance to win every night.”
The game was tied at 5 in the sixth when Bees reliever Grady Gorgen thought he had struck out Luke Ira with the bases loaded to end the inning. Gorgen and some of the Bees started to walk off the field, but plate umpire Josh Barnes had called the pitch a ball. Ira, hitting .440 for the season, then pounded a double into right field that cleared the bases.
The Bees got to within 8-7 in the seventh on Marcos Sanchez’s ground-rule double that bounced over the center-field wall. Had the ball stayed in the ballpark. Zane Zielinski likely would have scored to tie the game. Instead, Zielinski had to go back to third base. Clinton reliever Casey Perrenoud got Brady Jurgella on a popout and Reid Halfacre on a grounder to Ira at shortstop to end the inning.
Clinton’s Max Holy walked to open the ninth inning and moved to second on a grounder to shortstop by Justin Conant. Pinch-hitter Jay Beshears hit a grounder back to Bees pitcher Jackson Gray, who threw to third base to try to get Holy, who was attempting to advance on the play. But Gray’s throw got past third baseman Mason Land, and Holy was able to score. An RBI double by Skyler Luna with two outs put Clinton up 10-8.
“I don’t know how many earned runs they had tonight,” McClure said. “They certainly didn’t have as many as were on the board. You’ve got to play defense — it’s something you can control and do every day, doing routine things.”
Jackson Jones hit a long home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but that would be the last of Bees’ 10 hits.
Clinton starter Matt Scherrman (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Gorgen (0-1) took the loss.
“Obviously if you don’t pitch and you give up free baserunners, you’re going to get beat,” McClure said. “You just can’t give free runs away. There’s no time clock. You’ve got to get them out. You’re just beating yourself when you do that.”
STREAKS: Zielinski extended his hitting streak to nine games. Sanchez and designated hitter Marcos Sanchez extended their hitting streaks to eight games. Bees first baseman Austin Simpson, who hit a 420-foot two-run home run in the fourth inning, has hit in four consecutive games.
UP NEXT: The Bees play at Normal on Friday and at O’Fallon on Saturday before returning home for a 2 p.m. game Sunday against Clinton.
Photo: Clinton’s Skyler Luna is called out at third base after trying to stretch a ninth-inning hit into a triple in Thursday’s game against the Burlington Bees. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)