By John Bohnenkamp
Reece Wissinger’s 12 pitches saved a game that was slipping away on a rainy night at Community Field.
The Burlington Bees rode that momentum to a six-run seventh inning that ended right before lightning and a downpour finished the night.
The 12-7 win over the Springfield Sliders on Friday night snapped a two-game losing stretch for the Bees, who stayed 1 1/2 games behind Normal in the Prospect League’s Great River Division.
Ben Nippolt’s two-run bases-loaded double snapped a 7-all tie, then the Bees added three more runs.
It had been raining for most of the seventh inning, and after the inning ended the umpires were alerted of lightning from an approaching storm in the area. Both teams left the field and the grandstands were cleared of fans. The torrential rain that followed brought a quick end.
The Bees had lost back-to-back games with the Cape Catfish on Wednesday and Thursday, and will face them in Cape Girardeau, Mo., this weekend. Burlington let a 6-1 lead get away in this one, but the rally ended the gloom.
“It’s huge, especially going on the road the next couple of days,” said Bees assistant coach Owen Oreskovich, who filled in for manager Gary McClure for the second consecutive night as McClure finished his two-game suspension from the league for his ejection from Wednesday’s game.
Bees starting pitcher Simon Gregersen loaded the bases to start the seventh on two singles sandwiched around an error and left with the Bees up 6-3. Reliever Garrett Langrell came in as the rain began, and allowed four consecutive baserunners — two walks, a hit batsmen and a single — as Springfield scored three more runs for a 7-6 lead.
“You could tell, it seemed like he couldn’t get a grip on the ball,” Oreskovich said.
Wissinger (3-0), a Burlington High School graduate who played this season at Southeastern Community College, came into the game with the bases loaded and struck out Jordan Gunter, Luke Malinger and Eric Martin to end the inning.
“Oh, he was huge,” Oreskovich said. “Three straight strikeouts after we were struggling, that was just big-time. We needed that after some momentum there, to get us going with the bats.”
Austin Simpson led off the seventh with a single, then Marcos Sanchez was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Zane Zielinski placed a bunt down the first-base line, beating the throw to first to load the bases.
“Big bunt from Zane,” Oreskovich said. “That was big. Perfect bunt.”
Chase Honeycutt walked to bring in Simpson, then Nippolt pounded a double to right field to score Sanchez and Zielinski. Lincoln Riley’s sacrifice fly brought in another run, then Jackson Jones closed the scoring with a two-run single.
Photo: Burlington Bees reliever Reece Wissinger shut down Springfield in the seventh inning of Friday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)