By John Bohnenkamp
Gary McClure tried to explain what he called the “unexplainable.”
What could have been a crucial ninth-inning double play turned into the go-ahead runs in the Springfield Sliders’ 7-5 win over the Burlington Bees in Sunday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.
“It’s really a tough loss,” McClure, the Bees’ manager, said. “Hard to swallow.”
The Bees had a chance at a double play with one on and nobody out in the ninth, but pitcher Jack Gray’s throwing error on a play where there was confusion about who was covering second base led to a three-run inning for the Sliders.
Gray, who had pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, started the ninth inning and hit leadoff hitter Justus Burke with a pitch. Tate Wargo followed with a comebacker to Gray, who whirled and threw to second base, where neither shortstop Zane Zielinski nor second baseman Joey Fitzgerald made the play. The ball went into center field, allowing Burke to go to third base. Nick Terrell followed with a double off Gray to put Springfield up 6-5, then Terrell scored on Chase Kessinger’s double off Bees pitcher Jacob Greenan.
“They talk about who’s got the bag before the play,” McClure said. “Zielinski was supposed to have the bag. You know, he thought he saw Fitzgerald really close to the bag — which he was, basically on the bag — so he let up. And then Fitzgerald just let the ball go because I … I can’t explain it. It’s really unexplainable.
“The ballgame’s over. The ballgame’s over if we complete that play.”
The Bees had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning. Dylan Hale opened the inning with a double, then Fitzgerald walked. Chase Honeycutt bunted the runners to second and third, but Rome Wallace struck out and pinch-hitter Justin Baehler grounded out to end the game.
Gray (2-2) was the losing pitcher.
“He pitched well,” McClure said. “We got the ground balls, we got the ground ball (on Wargo), and then the air kind of came out of the tire after that.”
The Bees (27-31 overall, 12-17 second half) trailed 4-3 in the fourth, but Zielinski’s sacrifice fly in the inning tied the game. They took the lead in the seventh when Fitzgerald singled to score Zielinski.
Cal Engebretson (1-0) was the winning pitcher.
Photo: Burlington Bees catcher Chase Honeycutt tags out Springfield’s Chase Kessinger to end the top of the ninth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)