THE MONDAY HIVE: It’s closing time, as the season is over

By John Bohnenkamp

The loaded bus left the Community Field parking lot at 8 a.m. last Tuesday, taking several members of the Burlington Bees to the airport in Cedar Rapids.

The Bees had played their final game of the Class A Midwest League season on Monday at Kane County, returning home that night.

Corbin Schindler, the Bees’ clubhouse manager, had seen the bus leave plenty of times during the season.

This departure had the sense of finality.

“That’s the moment when it hits you, when you see (team bus driver) Kenton (Cole) driving the bus with all of the guys going to the airport,” Schindler said. “It’s like, ‘OK, it’s over.’ It’s not a six-game road trip, where they’re going to Beloit or Clinton and then coming back. It’s like, ‘They’re gone, it’s over for the year.’”

Schindler’s season isn’t quite over. He and clubhouse assistant Gunnar Fullerton spent all of last week finishing up those end-of-season duties.

The clubhouse had to be cleaned. Uniforms had to be cleaned, with those in need of repair sent off for work. Equipment that belonged to the Los Angeles Angels packed to head to Arizona for instructional league.

“Trying to put the pieces back together after everyone leaves,” Schindler said.

By Friday, the jerseys and uniform pants were hanging in individual lockers. It was hard to tell that, for a 140-game season that included 70 home games, the clubhouse had been home to the Bees players and coaching staff.

“It’s hard walking in the first couple of days of the season, and it’s over,” Schindler said. “It goes from guys jumping up and down and celebrating our 11th walk-off win to now everyone’s home and I’m left here to piece together an empty clubhouse.”

The work for Schindler and Fullerton isn’t like it is during the regular season when, for a 6:30 p.m. game, they would arrive at 10 a.m. and leave at 2 a.m.

“I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll sleep in for an extra hour,’” said Schindler, who would arrive a little later and leave much earlier than on a normal game day.

Schindler has been working in clubhouses since 2015, when he was in spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

“I knew then that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

Schindler appreciates the clubhouse atmosphere.

“Being a part of the team. I get to be with these guys day in and day out. I get to know them before they get to the big-league level,” Schindler said. “You get to know these guys before what you see on TV.

“When you’re in spring training, there’s so many players around the clubhouse, it’s hard to get to know any of those guys. Then you get here, and there’s 28, 29 guys. You really get to bond with them.”

That’s why it was hard to say goodbye when that bus loaded last Tuesday.

Schindler and Fullerton will finish their work this week. 

“I’ve worked hard since March 1. It’s time to back it down a little bit,” Schindler said. “I’ll pack up and head back to Alabama.”

And wait for March to arrive.

“Everybody’s ready for the season to be over, ready for the season to be over, and then it hits,” he said. “And then you’re like, ‘Is baseball season back yet?’”

THE SEASON THAT WAS

A look at the final numbers of the Bees’ 2019 season.

Record: 66-74

First half: 39-31

Second half: 27-43

Home: 38-33

Road: 28-41

One-run games: 28-27

Extra innings: 10-5

Run differential: Minus-43

Overall batting average: .215

Home batting average: .224

Road batting average: .207

Opponents’ batting average: .224

ERA: 3.63

Opponents’ ERA: 3.29

Errors: 159

Notes: The Bees played 15 extra-inning games, tied for the most in the Midwest League. The Bees had the most extra-inning wins. … The Bees were 23-13 at home in the first half, 15-20 in the second half.

TEAM BY TEAM

A look at the Bees’ record against the rest of the Midwest League

Eastern Division

Great Lakes: 1-2

Bowling Green: 1-2

South Bend: 2-1

Lake County: 1-2

Lansing: 2-1

Fort Wayne: 2-1

Dayton: 3-0

West Michigan: 2-1

Western Division

Kane County: 8-11

Quad Cities: 5-10

Clinton: 7-10

Cedar Rapids: 4-14

Wisconsin: 5-9

Beloit: 13-5

Peoria: 10-5

STAT PACK

Outfielder Francisco Del Valle finished sixth in doubles with 27. … Outfielder Nonie Williams was fifth in walks with 64. Del Valle tied for sixth with 63. … Del Valle was tied for sixth with 39 extra-base hits. … Pitcher Hector Yan finished second in strikeouts with 148, while Robinson Pina was third with 146.

COUGARS 5, BEES 4: The season ends

Photo: Burlington Bees center fielder Rayneldy Rosario makes the catch that turned into a double play in the sixth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

GENEVA, Ill. — It wasn’t going to be one of those usual getaway days at the end of a long season.

Their playoff hopes dashed a long time ago, the Burlington Bees didn’t go quietly in their final game of the season.

It was still a defeat, the 74th and final loss of 2019.

Buddy Kennedy’s triple in the seventh inning scored Dominic Fletcher with the go-ahead run as the Kane County Cougars clinched the Class A Midwest League’s Western Division title with a 5-4 victory over the Bees on Monday at Northwestern Medicine Field.

The Bees finished 66-74 overall, 27-43 in the second half, but this wasn’t a swing-at-the-first-pitch-and-get-home kind of game that often happens on the final Monday of the season.

Burlington had nine hits, and had runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.

“I’m proud of them,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Our hitters bounced back today, had a good game.

“Maybe there’s something to be said for how we played. We swung the bats better, and I think we were relaxed today. We didn’t put as much pressure on ourselves. We tell them that sometimes it’s that last pitch you see in a season that can make a difference going into next year. Maybe that was the approach we had today.”

It really did come down to the last pitch. Adrian Rondon singled with two outs, then Rayneldy Rosario slapped a double down the right-field line to put runners on second and third.

But Nonie Williams, who had hit the ball hard all day, hit a grounder that shortstop Blaze Alexander cleanly fielded. Alexander, who had a costly throwing error in the fifth inning that led to the Bees tying the game, made a strong throw to get Williams by a step, and the season was over.

“I thought we hit a lot of balls hard today,” Howell said. “A lot of times, it was right at someone.”

Kane County needed either a win or a Clinton loss to clinch, and the Cougars struck early with a run in the first off Bees starter Cole Duensing.

But Burlington took a 2-1 lead in the second on Justin Jones’ two-run home run to right field.

The Cougars scored two runs in the fourth. Alexander led off with a home run off his photo on the left-center field video board, then David Garza doubled to drive in Nick Dalesandro.

The Bees weren’t finished. Johan Sala walked with two outs in the fifth, then Kevin Maitan singled and Livan Soto walked. Rondon followed with a bouncer to Alexander, whose wild throw allowed Sala to score. Rosario dropped a single into left field, and the Bees led 4-3.

Kane County tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Alexander’s sacrifice fly off Luis Alvarado (4-9).

The Bees missed a first-half playoff spot by a tiebreaker, then had their second-half playoff hopes doomed with a nine-game losing streak in late July and early August.

“Today, we played really relaxed,” Howell said. “Hopefully they learned from that.”

The post-game was all about goodbyes.

“Heck, it’s a long season, so you think, ‘OK, now I get a break,'” Howell said. “But then tomorrow, I’ll think I’ve got something to do, or something to schedule out. You always hate to see a season end.”

COUGARS 3, BEES 2: Soriano, Yan sprint to the finish

By John Bohnenkamp

GENEVA, Ill. — Jose Soriano and Hector Yan were sharp in their final innings of the season.

The two pitchers, ranked among the best prospects in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization, struck out seven in seven innings in the Burlington Bees’ 3-2 loss to the Kane County Cougars in Sunday’s Class A Midwest League game at Northwestern Medicine Field.

Soriano started and threw four innings, allowing four hits and two runs, only one earned, while walking two and striking out three. Yan pitched three hitless and scoreless innings, walking two and striking out four.

That, Bees manager Jack Howell said, was a perfect way for them to finish the year.

“You want to be sprinting to the finish,” he said. “I thought they did that with the way they pitched.”

The Bees forced extra innings when Johan Sala tied the game with a two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning. Kane County won the game in the 10th on David Garza’s infield single that score Tra’ Holmes.

Soriano, ranked the No. 10 prospect overall for the Angels and the No. 2 pitching prospect, finished 5-6 with a 2.55 earned run average, striking out 84 in 77 ⅔ innings. He allowed just five home runs, and opponents hit .197 against him.

Yan, ranked the No. 17 prospect overall for the Angels, was 4-5 with a 3.39 ERA. He struck out 148 in 109 innings, which ranks him second in the league heading into Monday’s 1 p.m. season finale. He allowed 74 hits, including just five home runs.

Yan pitched more innings this season than he had in his three previous professional seasons combined. Soriano threw the most innings of his career.

The two, both 20 years old, combined with relievers Parker Joe Robinson and Chad Sykes in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Beloit.

“Now they were sprinting across the line instead of dragging through it,” Howell said. “It was good to see them finish like that.

“It wasn’t so much the innings they pitched this season, it was how they handled themselves. They knew how to pitch out of trouble. They knew how to get back in the (strike) zone after getting out of the zone. Knowing how to pitch when you don’t have the best stuff. Those are all maturing things.”

It was the 15th extra-inning game for both teams this season, tied for the league lead.

Holmes started the 10th on second base under Minor League Baseball’s extra-inning rule. Zac Almond bunted him to third, then pinch-hitter Keshawn Lynch was intentionally walked. Garza then hit a bouncer over the head of Bees reliever Greg Veliz (2-2).

LUMBERKINGS 6, BEES 3: A goodbye to Community Field for the season

By John Bohnenkamp

The final offensive outburst for the Burlington Bees at Community Field was brief.

Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Clinton LumberKings was the final home game for the Bees in the Class A Midwest League season, and it felt like a repeat of Thursday’s game.

Clinton starter Jake Walters threw seven no-hit innings — one night after Remey Reed threw six perfect innings to start the game — and yet the Bees still had their chance to win the game after a big eighth inning.

The Bees got a two-run single from Johan Sala and an RBI groundout from Livan Soto, but when Clinton added two runs in the ninth, that one inning was only a tease.

Burlington pitchers Robinson Pina, Dylan King and Greg Veliz combined to strike out 17, one night after the Bees’ pitchers had 18 strikeouts, but Clinton put together enough hits to stay tied with Kane County for the Western Division lead heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

Pina struck out seven in four innings, but three errors and two singles hurt in Clinton’s two-run third inning.

The LumberKings added two more runs off King in the eighth, taking advantage of three walks, then scored their final two runs in the ninth, one on a throwing error.

Harrison Wenson had a one-out single in the ninth, but that would be the last noise.

The Bees had their chance at a first-half playoff spot, but two losses to Peoria in the final weekend forced them into a tiebreaker with Cedar Rapids, which they lost. The second half was punctuated by three losses to start the half and a nine-game losing streak in early August.

They get three final games at Kane County this weekend.

“I thought we had a good season, especially in the first half,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “We appreciate the support we got from the community this year, and this is a great organization. Now we want to finish strong.”

LUMBERKINGS 9, BEES 5: Offense wakes up late

Photo: Kevin Maitan rounds the bases after his eighth-inning home run in the Burlington Bees’ 9-5 loss to Clinton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

It looked as if, for the first six innings of Thursday’s game, that history was going to make another visit to Community Field.

Clinton LumberKings starting pitcher Remey Reed had retired the first 18 Burlington Bees hitters he had faced, but he was done after six innings and 76 pitches.

Reliever Elkin Alcala entered the game, and promptly gave up four runs in the seventh inning.

But it was a little late for the Bees, who fell, 9-5, in the Class A Midwest League game.

For all of the walk-off magic earlier in the week — three wins in the final at-bat, including the 1-0 victory in 10 innings on Tuesday night against Beloit in which four Bees pitchers combined on a no-hitter — Burlington’s offense has been struggling. The Bees had scored just two runs in the last 29 innings before the six zeroes that were put on the scoreboard against Reed.

That changed in the seventh against Alcala, who retired just two of the eight hitters he faced despite entering the game with a 9-0 lead.

“It was good to see we didn’t quit,” said Bees manager Jack Howell as his team heads into the final four games of the season.

Adrian Rondon drove in a run with a double, Justin Jones added an RBI single, and then Keinner Pina drove in two runs with a single.

The Bees’ final run came in the eighth, when Kevin Maitan slammed a solo home run that hit off the scoreboard in right field.

Bees starter Keith Rogalla (1-2) was hit for three runs in the first inning, but retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.

“He had a rough first inning, and then really settled in,” Howell said.

But the Bees were getting nothing from Reed (4-3), who struck out seven.

Clinton third baseman J.D. Osborne drove in five runs, hitting a three-run home run in the first inning and a two-run double in the fifth off Bees reliever Shane Kelso.

The LumberKings (75-60, 42-24) are tied with Kane County for the Western Division lead. The Bees conclude the home portion of the schedule against Clinton at 6:30 p.m. Friday, then play three games at Kane County to end the regular season.

Burlington fell to 66-70 overall, 27-39 in the second half. The Bees have to win out to finish at .500 for the season.

LUMBERKINGS 5, BEES 0: Party time again, but not for the home team

Photo: Bees pitcher Cole Duensing waits for the throw as he covers first base on Evan Edwards’ second-inning grounder. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

The celebration started after the final out on the field that had been one big party zone after the previous three games.

Only this time, the home team wasn’t the one enjoying the moment.

The Clinton LumberKings clinched a second-half Western Division playoff spot with Wednesday’s 5-0 win over the Burlington Bees in a Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.

The victory ended a streak of three consecutive walk-off wins for the Bees, the last one Tuesday’s four-pitcher no-hitter in the 1-0 10-inning victory over Beloit.

The Bees (66-69 overall, 27-38 second half) left the bases loaded in the second and third innings before Clinton (74-60, 41-24) took control of the game with two runs in the fourth and another run in the fifth.

The LumberKings are tied with Kane County for the division lead, and the Bees could play a role in how that race plays out. Burlington and Clinton have two more games remaining in this series, and then the Bees play a three-game series at Kane County beginning Saturday.

Clinton went 33-36 in the first half, finishing 11 1/2 games out of first place and 5 1/2 games out of the second playoff spot.

Bees manager Jack Howell said he could see the difference in the LumberKings just in how they hit Burlington pitchers Cole Duensing (6-7) and Luis Alvarado.

“I thought both of those guys pitched well,” Howell said. “And (the LumberKings) still hit the ball well. You can tell that’s a team that’s been hitting the ball well.”

Clinton had a plus-1 run differential in the first half, a plus-97 differential in the second half. The LumberKings hit .223 in the first half, .258 in the second half.

Duensing faced the minimum in the first three innings, pushing the scoreless streak for Bees’ pitchers to 28 innings. He got out of the third inning when new Bees right fielder Johan Sala made a running catch in the gap, then threw to first base to get a double play to end the inning. Duensing raised his glove and pointed to Sala as the Bees left the field.

The Bees had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning and didn’t score, then had first and second with no one out in the third, loading the bases with two outs before Clinton starter Alberto Guerrero (9-6) got out of the inning.

The LumberKings got their runs in the fourth on Davis Bradshaw’s triple that scored Christopher Torres and Peyton Burdick’s infield grounder that brought in Bradshaw.

Evan Edwards’ solo home run in the fifth made it a 3-0 lead, then the LumberKings added two runs in the seventh on Thomas Jones’ triple and Samuel Castro’s single.

Clinton relievers Raul Brito and Nathan Alexander retired the last nine Bees to finish the win.

That led to a LumberKings’ playoff celebration in front of their dugout.

Another party, just in a different place.

BEES 1, SNAPPERS 0: Four pitchers, no hits, another walk-off, and it’s history

Photo: The scoreboard tells the story as Bees pitchers (from left) Parker Joe Robinson, Jose Soriano, Hector Yan and Chad Sykes combined on a no-hitter in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Beloit Snappers at Community Field. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

The four pitchers who had spun 10 innings of silence watched from the third-base dugout.

And when Livan Soto raced to home plate carrying victory, the pitchers — starter Jose Soriano and relievers Parker Joe Robinson, Hector Yan and Chad Sykes — sprinted to the field to celebrate the third consecutive walk-off win for the Burlington Bees.

History had visited Community Field in the final week of the Class A Midwest League season.

The four pitchers combined for a no-hitter as the Bees walked away with a 1-0 triumph over the Beloit Snappers on Tuesday night.

“I’m going to remember this game,” said Sykes, who threw the final two innings. “Probably forever.”

It was the first no-hitter for the Bees since Danny Duffy and Juan Abreu combined to no-hit Peoria on Aug. 7, 2008. It was the fifth no-hitter in the league this season, the first extra-inning no-hitter in the league in 14 seasons.

Soriano threw 3 ⅔ innings. Robinson provided a bridge of 1 ⅓ perfect innings. Yan delivered three innings of handcuffs. Sykes got the game to the 10th, and pitched through that runner-on-second-to-start-every-extra-inning rule in the lower levels of Minor League Baseball that the Bees know all too well.

Then in the bottom of the 10th, with Soto — who had driven in the winning runs in the previous two nights — on second, Williams smacked the first pitch he saw from Beloit reliever Richard Guasch (0-3) into left-center field. Soto cruised to complete the win, doing a quick left turn after touching the plate to race to the celebration by second base.

It was the 10th win in 14 extra-inning games for the Bees this season, the most in the league.

There will be no postseason for the Bees — they missed out on a first-half Western Division playoff spot because of the tiebreaker with Cedar Rapids, and their second-half hopes sputtered with three losses to open the half and then were shoveled under with a nine-game losing streak in early August.

They will go into the offseason after Monday’s game at Kane County, but they aren’t leaving quietly.

That’s something that has impressed Bees manager Jack Howell, who could hear the noise in the dugout after the top of the ninth inning, and again after the top of the 10th.

“We had gotten the no-hitter. It fired everyone up,” Howell said. “It was like, ‘We’ve got the no-hitter, now let’s go win this dadgum game.’ That’s how I was taking it. ‘We’ve done this, now let’s finish it.’

“There’s just going to be a natural letdown (not making the playoffs). There’s a countdown — seven days, six days, five days. ‘In six days I’m going to be home.’”

He paused.

“Cheering like that, hearing that, the fact that we’ve walked them off three times in a row, says there’s something in there,” Howell said, patting his chest. “That you want to finish strong.”

“We’re out of the playoffs, so we just want to win and have fun,” Williams said. “That’s what tonight was about.”

“We’ve had a good little mojo going the last few days, with the walk-off streak,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to finish the year on a good note. Leave a good taste in our mouths.”

Robinson couldn’t stop smiling.

“Fun game,” he said.

Photo: Hector Yan jumps on Nonie Williams’ back in the post-game celebration. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

The game was going to be a piggyback of Soriano and Yan, two of the top pitchers in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization.

“Whenever you have Soriano and Yan lined up for a tandem, there’s always a chance something crazy is going to happen,” Bees pitching coach Jonathan Van Eaton said. “But you never expect something like this to happen.”

Soriano, making his second start for the Bees since coming off the injured list, walked five and struck out four. He left runners stranded on second base in the second and third innings, then his night was done when the Snappers loaded the bases with three walks in the fourth.

“I felt incredible,” Soriano said through a translator. “I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I felt like I could throw any pitch.”

Soriano had a feeling about the outcome.

“I felt like they weren’t going to hit us, at all,” Soriano said.

He was right.

Robinson pitched out of the fourth by getting Joseph Pena on a popup in foul territory, then pitched a perfect fifth inning.

“I didn’t even think about the no-hitter at that point,” Robinson said. “Once I came out of the game, you look at the scoreboard and you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, this could happen.’”

Yan took over. He walked one and struck out two, boosting his league-leading strikeout total to 144.

This was nothing new for Yan. He threw five no-hit innings in a game at Peoria on June 15, a no-hitter that was lost with a single with two outs in the ninth inning. He then threw 6 ⅓ no-hit innings in a home game against Kane County on June 20 — a no-hitter, and a game, that was lost with two hits in the ninth.

“It feels incredible,” Yan said through a translator. “I was involved in one in Peoria a couple of months ago, and we couldn’t get it. It feels good to accomplish that.

“I knew about the moment. All I was saying to myself was, ‘Don’t be the one who allows a hit.’”

He didn’t.

Sykes (1-1) pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the first two hitters he faced.

The no-hitter was complete, provided the Bees could get a run in the bottom of the inning.

They didn’t.

Keinner Pina, who had two of the Bees’ three hits, singled to open the inning. Rayneldy Rosario slapped a line drive up the middle, but Guasch made the catch and threw to first to get Pina for a double play.

Then came a nervous 10th.

Skyler Weber started the inning on second for Beloit. He moved to third on Nick Ward’s sacrifice bunt. Santis Sanchez followed with a hard grounder that was stopped by Bees third baseman Kevin Maitan, who threw out Sanchez at first. Sykes walked Pena, then got Michael Woodworth on a grounder to first to end the inning.

“I honestly didn’t think about any of the things going on,” Sykes said. “I was just focused on making pitches, and guys behind me made plays. Maitan made a couple of great plays.”

“Being honest, one of the things running through my head was this thought, ‘This isn’t going to be 10 innings of no-hit baseball, and we lose 1-0,’” Howell said. “Passed ball, they go to third, get a sacrifice fly, something like that.”

He exhaled at the thought.

“That’s why when we got out of that inning, it felt like a monkey off the back,” Howell said.

The four pitchers threw 150 pitches, 92 for strikes, all a perfect weave.

In the frantic moments at the end, the game ball rolled toward Van Eaton. He picked it up and gave it to Pina, who caught those pitches.

“He did outstanding,” Van Eaton said.

Williams provided the finish.

“We finally made it,” Soriano said.

“I was thinking about celebrating,” Yan said.

“I wanted to see a pitch, put it in play, not try to do too much,” Williams said. “Just put in the right spot. Soto made it home.

“It was a fun night.”