By John Bohnenkamp
It’s all about trust, Sam Monroe said, and that’s why he’s been comfortable at the top of the Burlington Bees’ lineup.
Monroe went 3 for 4, scored three runs, and drove in a run in the Bees’ 7-0 win over the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes in Wednesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.
Garrett Moltzan, Nick Tampa, Steven Escarcega and Kyle Maurer combined for the three-hit shutout, the first of the season for the Bees (3-5).
Monroe is hitting .360 with a .515 on-base percentage this season, and is tied for the league lead in runs scored with 11.
“I just don’t try to get ahead of myself,” Monroe said. “I’m not thinking I’ve got to go 3 for 4, I’m thinking trust the guys behind me, get on base, and good things will happen.”
That is why Monroe is perfect for the leadoff spot, Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said.
“Oh, man, I can’t say enough good things about that kid,” Oreskovich said. “He’s an absolute competitor up there every time. He’s the perfect summer-league ballplayer, some might say. He wants to be here, he wants to play, he’s going to compete every time, he wants to win. He’s just absolutely incredible.”
Monroe singled, stole second, and scored on Kevin Santiago’s single in the first inning. He singled to lead off the fifth inning and scored on a two-out throwing error to give the Bees a 2-0 lead. Then he doubled home a run before scoring later in the Bees’ three-run sixth inning.
It was a night when there was plenty of traffic on the bases for the Bees — they had eight hits and eight walks. Ryan Grace was on base twice in the No. 7 spot in the lineup, Dawson Estep had two hits and got on base three times in the No. 8 spot, and Trey Adams got on once and had a sacrifice fly batting ninth.
“I think the bottom of the order has been huge for us lately,” said Monroe, who has driven in five runs this season. “It’s not common for the leadoff guy to drive in a lot of runs, but when you have guys who are hitting 8-9 getting on base, then that puts guys on for the top of the order.”
Monroe, who graduated from Southeastern Community College and will attend Missouri S&T in the fall, hit .283 with a .427 on-base percentage in his second season with the Blackhawks this spring. SCC plays most of its home games at Community Field in the spring and the fall, so Monroe said it feels like his “second home.”
“I tell you what, I’m not from Burlington,” said Monroe, who grew up in Moline, Ill. “But Burlington is growing on me.”
Moltzan (1-1) allowed two hits and struck out five in five innings. He threw just three innings in his first start of the season on June 2 in a home loss to the Quincy Gems.
“He threw five (innings) and only threw 74 pitches, I think it was,” Oreskovich said. “He was on a little bit of a pitch count thing (in his first game), because he threw a lot (for Texas Wesleyan) in their conference tournament. But he went out there today and just competed. He did absolutely everything we wanted from him.”
Tampa didn’t allow a hit in two innings, Escarcega had a perfect eighth inning, and Maurer struck out three in the ninth.
“We’ve got a lot of guys here who want to win,” Monroe said. “Like I said, it’s about trusting the guys behind you, don’t get ahead of yourself, and good things will happen.”
ON DECK: The Bees play a doubleheader at O’Fallon on Thursday night. It’s their third doubleheader in six days.
NOTES: The Bees start a seven-game road trip that also includes games against the Cape Catfish on Friday and Saturday, a game at Springfield on Sunday, and games at Illinois Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday. “I think more than anything, it’s going to be a bonding thing, getting that trust that you get on the road,” Oreskovich said. “They’re pretty good together already, I would say.” … Santiago, who went 1 for 4, is hitting .400 this season with a 1.184 OPS.
Photo: Sam Monroe singles to lead off the game in the Burlington Bees’ 7-0 win over the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes on Wednesday night. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)