By John Bohnenkamp
Kevin Santiago had two at-bats in which he just missed hitting the pitch he wanted.
That wasn’t going to happen a third time.
Santiago’s 11th-inning single brought in Oscar Ponce with the winning run as the Burlington Bees defeated the Cape Catfish 2-1 Saturday night in a Prospect League game at Community Field.
The Bees (9-14) have won three consecutive games and four out of their last five.
But they had to rally in their longest game of the year. The game took 5 hours, 13 minutes to complete, including a 1-hour, 45-minute rain delay in the second inning.
It was the third win by the Bees over the Catfish this season, and all of them have come in Burlington’s final at-bat. The Bees scored a run in the top of the ninth for an 8-7 win on June 10, then won 10-9 on the following night with two ninth-inning runs.
“And now this,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “To do that, wow. That was awesome.”
Santiago’s hit with two runners on capped the comeback that was started when Spencer Nivens hit his first home run of the year, a towering drive to right field, to lead off the inning.
Ponce followed with a line-drive single to right-center field, and then he moved to second when Ryan Grace was hit by a pitch.
Santiago, who had flyouts in the fifth and seventh innings, knew what he was looking for when he came to the plate.
“I was looking for a fastball, because all day they had been throwing me off-speed,” said Santiago, who is hitting .313 this season. “I know for something to happen, it had to be a fastball in.”
He got that from Cape reliever Dante Zamudio (1-1), driving a pitch down the left-field line. As Ponce scored the winning run, the Bees poured from the third-base dugout and chased Santiago into left field to celebrate.
Santiago, a junior at Texas Wesleyan University, played for the Bees last season, and his experience is something that Oreskovich appreciates.
“He and Marcos (Sanchez), they’re veteran guys,” Oreskovich said. “They’re guys that if they strike out, they won’t carry it into the dugout. They won’t carry it into their next (at-bat). They’re very good with that.
“He kept that presence about him. He was very mature up there. He was confident, and you could see that.”
The two teams combined for 10 scoreless innings, then the Catfish (8-15) scored without a hit in the top of the 11th.
Jackson Jarvis struck out to open the inning, but reached first on a wild pitch from C.J. Lewis (1-0). Jarvis moved to second on another wild pitch, then got to third on a passed ball. Kolton Poorman’s sacrifice fly brought Jarvis home.
That was the only blemish on an otherwise brilliant pitching performance for Lewis, who threw six innings in relief. Lewis threw just 68 pitches.
“That was incredible,” Oreskovich said. “That was huge to have, especially to keep his pitch count not absurd for six innings. Him competing out there was the best thing.”
Lewis’ work came after Bees starter Jared Townsend pitched five innings. Townsend allowed two hits in the first inning and walked two of the first three hitters to open the second before the rain delay. He then came out and got out of the second inning, then didn’t allow a hit over the final three innings.
“He went out there and completely flipped the game,” Oreskovich said.
The Bees didn’t get a hit until Sam Monroe’s infield single with one out in the sixth inning. They didn’t get another until Santiago’s single with two outs in the ninth.
“We had some good hits that were caught,” Oreskovich said.
ON DECK: The Bees play at Clinton in a 2 p.m. game on Sunday. Bees starter Trevor McGee (1-0) will face Clinton’s Brody Brecht.
Photo: Kevin Santiago gets water thrown on him after delivering the game-winning hit in the Bees’ 2-1 victory over the Cape Catfish.