By John Bohnenkamp
Zane Zielinski’s three-run home run went to one of the deepest parts of Community Field.
“Maybe wind-aided a little bit, but I’ll take it,” the Burlington Bees second baseman said, laughing.
OK, maybe. But it still got out over the left-center field fence in the sixth inning, lifting the Bees to a 7-5 win over the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp in Wednesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.
The Bees (20-20 overall, 5-6 second half) are 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Great River Division heading into a key six-game stretch against divisional rivals that begins with Thursday’s game at Clinton.
The Bees, who were down 4-1 after three innings, trailed 4-3 in the sixth and had runners on second and third with two outs when Zielinski homered off reliever Ryan Palmblad.
“He threw one curveball and I fouled it off, so I knew I could see that,” Zielinski said. “I was sitting on fastball, just waiting to adjust on the curve. Saw it coming in, so I just swung on it.”
It was the second home run of the season for Zielinski, who had struck out in his first two at-bats.
“It meant a lot,” Zielinski said. “I wasn’t doing a lot at the plate to start the day, so it felt good to help the team to take the lead. I’m just trying to hit a ball hard, drive someone in, maybe move someone over.”
“I was glad to see that for Z,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He got into one, a big home run.”
Zielinski had just one hit in his previous 10 at-bats before the home run.
“It was a big hit for team, a big hit for the him,” McClure said. “He’s been struggling a little bit.”
Jack Gray (2-1) was the winning pitcher in relief. Reece Wissinger got his third save.
Tyler Conkilin (0-1) was the losing pitcher.
BACK IN RHYTHM: The Bees lost two dates against the Normal CornBelters because of rain last weekend, then had Monday off before Tuesday’s 7-5 loss at Illinois Valley.
That time off set the Bees back a little bit, McClure said.
“That hurt us,” McClure said. “ A couple of days off, OK. But when you’re playing every day, and all of the sudden you have three days long days, where these guys don’t have anything to do. It gets you out of your rhythm a little bit, for sure.”
The Bees will play a 5 p.m. doubleheader at home against the CornBelters on Friday, then have another doubleheader scheduled for July 31 at Community Field.
HARRIS’ NIGHT: Bees starting pitcher McLain Harris struck out seven over five innings, allowing four runs, although only two were earned.
“Harris threw the ball really well,” McClure said. “We gave up at least two unearned runs, and maybe three. He pitched well.”
It was Harris’ first outing since an 11-7 loss to O’Fallon on July 4, when he was charged with only two earned runs of the six he gave up in a game in which the Bees committed six errors.
A throwing error cost him two unearned runs in the third inning of this game.
“We’ve kicked the ball around when he’s been on the mound here lately,” McClure said. “He did what he’s done all year. He keeps you in the ballgame. He gives you a chance to win every time he’s out there.”
Photo: Zane Zielinski hits his three-run home run in the sixth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)