By John Bohnenkamp
Elijah Green knew the pitch count was looming.
The right-hander, making his second start with the Burlington Bees, made every pitch count in the seventh inning of Saturday’s Prospect League game against the Normal CornBelters at Community Field.
And Green ended up pitching a complete game, as the Bees won by the 10-run rule in the bottom of the seventh inning, 13-3.
“It feels good to use only the starting pitcher tonight, who did a phenomenal job,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “He did exactly what we asked.”
Green started the seventh inning with a 10-3 lead and was at 84 pitches. The Prospect League limit is 95, although you can start a batter if you’re at 94 pitches or less.
“They told me (at the beginning of the inning) I’ve got 11 left,” said Green, who pitches for Southeastern Community College. “So I was like, all right, I’ve got to pitch to contact. I’m not coming out of this game.”
Green struck out Normal’s Jackson Blemler, then got Dominic DiLello on a called third strike for the second out. He was at 94 pitches, so he could face one more batter.
That was Peyton Dillingham, and six pitches later, on Green’s 100th pitch of the night, he got Dillingham on a called third strike to end the inning.
“We got him to start that last batter at 94,” Oreskovich said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Thank you, God.’”
“I ended up going a couple over,” said Green, who threw 63 strikes in the game and struck out nine. “But hey, whatever…”
The win snapped the Bees’ nine-game losing streak.
“It feels great to be the guy who broke the streak,” Green said.
Green (1-1) was touched for three runs in the first four innings. But keeping the Bees (19-34 overall, 8-14 second half) close was important to the psyche of a team that had fallen behind by 13 runs in the first four innings of Friday’s 14-4 loss to the Quincy Gems.
“That changes it,” Oreskovich said. “It’s not four (runs), and then three. It’s one, one, zero, one. That’s what we ask — try to minimize everything from a pitching standpoint.”
The Bees took control of the game with an eight-run sixth inning that looked like some innings that had gone against them in the losing streak. They had just three hits in the inning, taking advantage of five walks, four wild pitches and an error by the CornBelters (28-25, 14-9).
Green allowed six hits, but just one over the final three innings.
“It really helped (getting that lead),” Green said. “It was a close game up until the (sixth). Pitching with a lead is obviously so many times easier. And my defense was amazing tonight.”
The Bees finished the game with five walks to score three runs in the eighth inning, with the final two runs scoring on wild pitches with the bases loaded.
Four Normal pitchers combined for 12 walks. Bode Gebbink (4-4) took the loss.
Photo: Bees pitcher Elijah Green struck out nine in seven innings in Saturday’s win. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)