BEES 7, LUMBERKINGS 5: The Sun Sets On The Struggles

By John Bohnenkamp

Owen Oreskovich figured at some point there would be a break that would finally erase the Burlington Bees’ struggles to score runs.

There were plenty of those in the 7-5 win over the Clinton LumberKings in Wednesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

The Bees (7-14) rallied from a 5-2 deficit, tying the game with a three-run seventh inning and then going ahead in the eighth in an inning in which their only hit was an infield single.

“It was nice to see it go our way for once,” Oreskovich, the Bees’ manager, said.

“Absolutely, it was a huge win,” said shortstop Trey Adams, who drove in Burlington’s first run and got on base three times.

The Bees had lost seven of their last eight games, including all six last week.

“Hopefully this is the start of a streak and we can ride it out,” Adams said. “It’s been very frustrating. We went on that losing streak for a while, and some guys got down. It was tough to come back from that. A couple of wins here and there can get us going in the right direction again.”

Oreskovich has lamented the lack of hits in big situations all season, but the Bees found a way to get runs, and it started with some solar help in the fifth inning.

Burlington trailed 2-1 and had a runner on third with two outs when A.J. Henkle hit what looked to be an inning-ending grounder to Clinton third baseman Luke Ira. Ira’s throw to first was on target, but it was right into the sun shining in the eyes of first baseman Jeremy Conforti. Conforti couldn’t handle the throw, and Sam Monroe scored the tying run.

“I was like, ‘One went our way,’” Oreskovich said, laughing.

The three runs in the seventh were all scratched out. The Bees loaded the bases with no one out, then Kevin Santiago grounded out to first to score Adams, who had opened the inning with a single. Marcos Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly to score Spencer Nivens, and then Chase Honeycutt dropped a single into left-center field to score Henkle to tie the game.

The Bees loaded the bases with no one out in the eighth on three consecutive walks. Nivens grounded out to second to score Brandon Bickford. Henkle struck out for the second out, then Santiago walked. Marcos Sanchez followed with an infield single to score Monroe, and Burlington had a 7-5 lead.

Four Bees pitchers combined on a four-hitter. Owen Rice (1-1) got the win with 1 ⅓ shutout innings that included striking out the side in the eighth inning. Kyle Maurer pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.

Osvaldo Mendez, making his first start for the Bees, struck out four and didn’t allow a hit until a two-run home run by Conforti with two outs in the fifth. That likely was going to be Mendez’s last batter, since he was three pitches from the league’s 95-pitch limit. Mendez walked seven.

“Huge shout-out to Osvaldo for going out there and shoving,” Oreskovich said. “He’s got to limit the free bases, and he knows that. Once we limit that, he can go six, seven innings pretty easily.”

Cauy Massner finished the fifth by striking out Joe Simpson. He gave up three runs in the sixth and seventh, but two errors behind him were costly.

Adams, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to five games. He is hitting .438 in the streak.

“Working in the cage before games has been the biggest change for me,” Adams said. “Working on my approach and my swing, just going up there and having confidence no matter where I am in the order.”

“I like him (in the No. 9 spot) for that reason,” Oreskovich said. “Because I know he’s going to compete, put the ball in play. Earlier in the year, he was putting it in play, but it was right at the shortstop, or right at the second baseman. Now they’re finding the holes and they’re falling in.”

The Bees, in the middle of a four-game homestand, get Thursday off with a win they can enjoy.

“I think it’s a swing point,” Oreskovich said. “I think it’s huge for these kids’ confidence.”

UP NEXT: The Bees play a 6:30 p.m. game on Friday against the O’Fallon Hoots at Community Field.

Photo: Bees starter Osvaldo Mendez delivers a pitch early in Wednesday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

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