By John Bohnenkamp
Andrew Long didn’t quite make it through the seventh inning.
What the right-hander gave the Burlington Bees on Tuesday night was more than enough.
Long had his longest outing of the season, going 6 1/3 innings in the Bees’ 12-3 win over the Clinton LumberKings in Tuesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.
Long (1-2) came into the game with a 6.94 earned run average in five starts, but held the LumberKings to four hits and two earned runs while striking out four.
“It’s been my goal all season to get through the seventh inning, and I didn’t quite make it,” Long said. “Came up two outs short, but it felt good to get there.”
Long gave up a triple to Matt Scherrman to start the inning, then threw a wild pitch that allowed Scherrman to score. Long then got Brayden Frazier to ground out for the first out of the inning.
Long was at 91 pitches, four short of the league maximum for a game, so Bees manager Gary McClure thought it was time to end Long’s night and go to reliever Garrett Langrell.
“He only had a few more pitches to go,” McClure said. “I thought he was getting a little bit tired. I thought he should finish on a good note, instead of struggling through another hitter or two and then all of the sudden a good outing turns into a not-so-good outing.”
“Still a little upset about letting that one run score, but it worked out in the end,” Long said. “I was glad to give the ball to Langrell with no runners on and an out on the board.”
Long, who pitched this season at Southeastern Community College, has had three outings of five innings this season. He has allowed 34 hits in 29 2/3 innings.
“I’ve learned to rust the defense, really,” Long said. “Pitch in the (strike) zone, it doesn’t matter if you get hit, you’ve got (defense) for a reason. Just really compete in the zone, and don’t let up no matter what.”
Long retired the side in order in three of the first four innings. He struck out the side in the third inning.
“I felt good with all my pitches,” he said. “Just trusted my defense to be there if I got hit around a little bit. Felt good, really confident today. I came off the mound (after the third), felt really good, and tried to roll off that momentum.”
Long gave up two runs in the fifth. Scherrman led off with a single. Frazier followed with a single down the left-field line, and a throwing error allowed Scherrman to score and Frazier to get to third. Frazier scored on Max Holy’s ground out.
“Long came out and pitched really, really well,” McClure said. “I think he could have gotten out of it with no runs, possibly, maybe a run.”
TABLE SETTER: Bees shortstop Ben Nippolt, put in the leadoff spot for the game, reached base in all six plate appearances.
Nippolt walked four times, had a solo home run in the third inning and a single in the fourth, and scored three runs.
Nippolt is batting .364 over his last nine games.
“He’s been swinging the bat good, he’s been taking walks,” McClure said. “And he had a home run to boot.”
POWER PLANT: Nippolt, Jackson Jones and Rome Wallace each had home runs for the Bees, but Wallace just missed a second one that would have ended the game.
The Bees were up 10-3 in the eighth and had the bases loaded when Wallace hit a deep drive down the left-field line that just missed being a fair ball. Had it gone out, the game would have been over because of the 10-run rule.
McClure argued the call with plate umpire Gabe Vargas to no avail.
CLEAN IT UP: The Bees had six errors in Sunday’s loss to O’Fallon, and McClure met with the position players before this game.
The Bees had just two errors in the game, but only one led to any runs.
“I think the guys took it to heart,” McClure said. “It was a good time for them to listen, I think. It’s one thing to talk, it’s another thing to go out and play well.”
Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Andrew Long gave up two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s win over Clinton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)