By John Bohnenkamp
Kevin Santiago’s bat is parked at a perfect place in the Burlington Bees’ lineup.
He was in the right spot again on Wednesday night in the No. 3 hole, slugging a three-run home run in the seventh inning in the Bees’ 11-10 win over the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp in a Prospect League game at Community Field.
The Bees (20-36 overall, 9-16 second half) came into their final homestand of the season having lost 11 of their last 12 games. They showed they still had some fight.
“We needed it, to let the guys feel good” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said of the win. “They’re still working, and that’s all I can ask. It’s getting tough though.”
The Bees were down 5-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth, then scored four runs in the fifth inning and added another four in the seventh.
Mitch Wood’s RBI single scored Evan Paulus with the first run in the fifth, then Patrick McGinn’s two-run single put the Bees in the lead. Tucker Cole’s sacrifice fly made it a 7-5 game.
Santiago’s home run to left-center field was the big blow of the seventh. It was Santiago’s 10th home run of the season, tying him with three others for second in the league.
Santiago, in his second season with the Bees, is batting .306 with a .936 OPS.
“In that 3 hole, he’s pretty dang good,” Oreskovich said. “He’s just a pure hitter, a pro bat. He’s been great, and he’s been great to have around. He teaches some of the kids Spanish, he’s just great to have around. He keeps the energy up.”
Santiago’s home run gave the Bees an 11-6 lead, but the Pistol Shrimp (35-21, 15-10) rallied. They scored two runs in the eighth, then another two in the ninth before a controversial call helped the Bees get out of the inning.
Ivan Witt, whose double got Illinois Valley to within 11-10, tried to steal third base with one out. Bees catcher Nolan Elmore couldn’t get a throw off, but plate umpire Mark Beerends called batter Kevin Parker Jr., out for interference and sent Witt back to second base. Illinois Valley manager John Jakiemiec raced in from the third-base coach’s box to argue the call, but the call stood.
Bees reliever David Theriot then got Kody Watanabe to ground out to end the game.
Jeron Conner (2-1) was the winning pitcher in relief. It was Theriot’s first save.
Preston Kaufman (0-1) took the loss.
Photo: Kevin Santiago (center) is greeted by Lincoln Riley (left) and Jaden Hackbarth after his three-run home run. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)