By John Bohnenkamp
A simple tweak of his swing has made the difference for Burlington Bees catcher Nolan Elmore.
Elmore had three hits and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, as the Bees rallied past the O’Fallon Hoots 6-5 in Monday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.
The Bees (16-25 overall, 5-5 second half) remained in a tie with the Normal CornBelters for the second-half lead in the Great River Division.
Elmore, who joined the Bees at the beginning of the month, was 1-for-9 at the plate in his first three games. But a piece of advice from Bees manager Owen Oreskovich when the team started its road trip last week has changed Elmore’s approach at the plate.
“When I got here, on every single fastball, I was completely late,” Elmore said. “I was swinging with it. He said, ‘Hit it out front.’ Something so simple like that made sense.”
“One key little word, and it worked,” Oreskovich said.
Elmore went 1-for-4 with a home run in last Wednesday’s game at Lafayette. He went 0-for-3 in Friday’s loss at Terre Haute, but he was making contact.
Elmore hit a solo home run in the third inning of this game, then drove in a run with a single in the sixth inning.
He came up with two outs in the eighth, with the score tied at 5 and Jaden Hackbarth on second base. Elmore swung at a high 3-2 pitch and fouled it back, then looked down to Oreskovich and gestured. The gesture from Oreskovich back gave Elmore the answer he was seeking.
“I wanted to know if it was in the (strike) zone,” Elmore said. “I was confident I was on it.”
“He asked me, ‘Was that up?’” Oreskovich said, laughing. “I said, ‘Way up.’”
Elmore then singled off Bryce Grossius (0-1) on the next pitch. Hackbarth slid across the plate ahead of the throw from center field, and the Bees had the lead.
Kyle Maurer then struck out two of the four hitters he faced in the ninth to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Nick Tampa (2-1) was the winning pitcher. The Bees got 3 ⅔ shutout innings from Tampa, Maurer and Jeron Conner.
Elmore, who plays at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, was working at a landscaping job in late June when he got a call from his coach, Jerod Edmundson, telling him the Bees were looking for a catcher.
“(Bees coach) Chris Monroe played for my coach (at Framingham State),” said Elmore, who hit .236 this season with eight home runs. “This team needed catchers. I got the call, I was at work, and my coach said there was an opportunity. So I took it.”
Elmore is hitting .250 with the Bees in six games. His hitting problem since he joined the team has been solved.
“He said it today,” Oreskovich said. ‘‘One little thing and it clicked like that.’ He’s an awesome kid. Really works hard behind the plate. It’s great to see.”
ON DECK: The Bees play host to the Clinton LumberKings in Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. game.
Photo: Bees catcher Nolan Elmore watches his third-inning home run. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)