THE MONDAY HIVE: A Look Back At The Bees In 2022

By John Bohnenkamp

It was a great start.

And at one point in the second half, they were in first place in their division.

But the 2022 Prospect League season for the Burlington Bees was an education for the manager as well as the players.

The Bees went 20-39 overall — 11-20 the first half, 9-19 the second half.

But manager Owen Oreskovich hopes the season was a teaching moment for his players.

“I think they learned,” Oreskovich said. “Every kid that’s left here, they’ve told me they’ve had a fantastic time, and wished we could have done better, and they could have done better. I wish we could have, too.”

There were flashes of success with this team, starting with the 15-5 win over the Quincy Gems in the season opener at Community Field.

But there were also long losing streaks — a five-game one after the opening win, a six-game streak midway through the first half, and a nine-game one after they had a 1 ½-game lead in their division in the second half — that proved costly.

Those streaks, especially an early one, were just part of the lessons of the season.

“We had a great first night,” Oreskovich said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way, and you don’t attack it. And if you don’t attack it, it might not go your way for a while.”

Oreskovich pointed to the team’s inexperience.

“We had a young team,” Oreskovich said. “Either a young team, or guys that haven’t played college ball yet. All you can ask these guys is to try their best. Some of them didn’t even play college ball this year. This was it for them (since) last summer. It’s tough for those kids to get into (a rhythm).”

There were plenty of individual success stories with this team.

• Kevin Santiago, in his second season with the team, hit .307, ranking 14th in the league. His 10 home runs tied for third in the league, and he ranked eighth in runs batted in (41), slugging percentage (.536) and hits (55).

• Marcos Sanchez, also in his second season, had a .536 slugging percentage. He was second on the team with six home runs.

• Outfielder Sam Monroe anchored the leadoff spot for the team for much of the season. His 37 walks tied for second in the league. He also had a .425 on-base percentage.

• First baseman Ryan Grace, a player who redshirted this season as a freshman, led the team with a .340 average.

• Catcher Chase Honeycutt batted .308.

• Outfielder A.J. Henkle, who missed most of his college season with an injury, hit a grand slam to end the season opener. He hit .262 with a team-high 10 doubles.

• Outfielder Spencer Nivens, who played just the first month of the season after helping Missouri State to the NCAA regional, hit .315 in just 13 games.

• Outfielder Lincoln Riley, who missed all but the final weeks of the season with an ankle injury, hit .246 in 18 games.

• Nick Tampa was the do-it-all for the team. He could play the outfield, but was especially effective as a relief pitcher, with a 2-2 record with 33 strikeouts in 26 ⅓ innings. He had a team-high 14 appearances in relief.

• Jeron Conner, a local player who joined the team late in the season, had a 2-1 record with a 2.91 earned run average. Opposing hitters batted .167 against him.

• Steven Escarcega, who redshirted this season as a freshman at Hawaii Pacific, was 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

• Owen Rice struck out 18 in 8 ⅔ innings.

• David Theriot, who joined the team in the final three weeks, struck out 18 in 9 ⅔ innings.

• C.J. Lewis, who threw just three innings at Toledo this season, carried a big workload in the bullpen, striking out 32 in 36 ⅔ innings. He threw six innings in relief to get the win in a 2-1 victory over the Cape Catfish on June 25. Opposing batters hit .198 against him.

Oreskovich said he appreciated his team’s effort.

“What I will say about the guys we had here this summer was they’ll compete,” he said. “They work hard — they’re in the gym over there (in the Bees’ hitting building), they’re in (the batting cage), they’re at the Y working out, they’re taking extra ground balls, extra swings, whenever they can. They’re trying to get better.

“They’re all learning. I’m still learning. I’ve learned a lot this summer, learned some things from different guys. They’ve learned, hopefully, quite a bit from me that they can take into their careers. I had fun. I don’t like losing. I hate losing more than I like winning. But it was fun.”

THE FINAL NUMBERS

(League ranking in parentheses)

Record: 20-39

  • 11-20 first half
  • 9-19 second half
  • 15-15 home
  • 5-24 road
  • 8-6 one-run

Attendance: 29,320 (6th)

BATTING

Average: .236 (16th)

On-base percentage: .361 (14th)

Slugging: .331 (16th)

Runs: 306 (15th)

Hits: 442 (15th)

Doubles: 79 (t-12th)

Triples: 8 (t-13th)

Home runs: 28 (t-14th)

Runs batted in: 264 (14th)

Walks: 306 (4th)

Strikeouts: 550 (t-15th)

Stolen bases: 65 (15th)

Caught stealing: 16 (3rd)

PITCHING

ERA: 6.88 (15th)

Hits: 575 (15th)

Runs: 432 (16th)

Earned runs: 370 (16th)

Walks: 334 (14th)

Strikeouts: 426 (t-14th)

Strikeouts/9 innings: 7.92 (13th)

Home runs: 35 (t-6th)

FIELDING

Percentage: .952 (t-13th)

Double plays: 39 (t-4th)

Errors: 98 (12th)

Photo: The Burlington Bees celebrate Chase Honeycutt’s walk-off hit in a win this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

RIVER DRAGONS 6, BEES 5: The Finale Goes A Little Longer

By John Bohnenkamp

The Burlington Bees weren’t ready to say goodbye to the 2022 Prospect League season at Community Field.

They got two extra innings in before it was over.

The home part of the Bees’ schedule ended with a 6-5 loss in 11 innings to the Alton River Dragons on Thursday.

The Bees forced extra innings with single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, kept the game going with a run in the bottom of the 10th after Alton had taken a 5-4 lead, and then couldn’t rally again in the 11th.

“I’m super-proud of these guys, especially the guys who have stuck it out all season,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “I’m proud of the guys. They fought the whole game. It wasn’t easy, they could have given up just like that. But you could tell that they wanted to give these fans one last hurrah there.”

The final out came with the hitter Oreskovich wanted at the plate — Kevin Santiago. Santiago, one of the league’s best hitters this season, had a two-out RBI single in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3, then flied out with the winning run on third base with two outs in the ninth.

Santiago had a chance to keep the game going with Jaden Hackbarth at first base. Santiago hit a line drive up the middle that looked headed for center field, but Alton second baseman Cameron Hailstone was positioned perfectly, fielding the ball on one hop before throwing to first to end the game.

“We tried,” Oreskovich said. “Couldn’t get a knock there at the end.”

The Bees were down to their last out in the ninth inning with Charlie Terrill on second base. Catcher Cedric Dunnwald, playing in his first game, looped a single into center field, allowing Terrill to score.

Down 5-4 in the 10th, Burlington tied the game again on Nolan Elmore’s single that scored Pat McGinn from second base.

Alton scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th on Hailstone’s sacrifice fly.

The Bees had 12 hits. Lincoln Riley had three and reached base five times. Santiago, Marcos Sanchez, Elmore and Terrill each had two.

Erik Broekemeier (1-1) was the winning pitcher. Karen Reardon got the save.

Bobby Helt (0-1) took the loss.

The Bees close the season with games Friday and Saturday at Quincy. Asked how important it would be to get a win or two to end the season, Oreskovich said, “It would be huge, especially for the guys who have been here the whole time who are sticking it out the last two games. It would be good for them, go home on a higher note.”

Photo: Marcos Sanchez (left) is greeted by Bees manager Owen Oreskovich after hitting a two-run home run. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 11, PISTOL SHRIMP 10: Santiago’s Homer Finishes Outburst

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)

THE MONDAY HIVE: Grace Had A Smooth Ride With Bees

By John Bohnenkamp

Ryan Grace remembered his trip into Burlington.

The final leg of his journey in May from the Northeast to his summer Prospect League team in the Midwest was a flight from St. Louis to Burlington on a tiny Cape Air plane.

“I go on the tarmac of a huge airport, and I’m getting on an eight-seat plane,” the Burlington Bees first baseman said, laughing. “I’m like, ‘What did I get myself into?’

“Bumpy ride.”

And after a bumpy start to his season, Grace became one of the league’s best hitters.

Grace concluded his season in the Bees’ 13-3 win over Normal on Saturday night at Community Field. He went 2-for-3, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Grace, who hit .378 after a 3-for-18 start to the season, finished the season with a .340 average, best on the team. If Grace had enough plate appearances, he would rank fourth in the league in hitting..

“The competition is much better than I guessed it would have been,” said Grace, who also had an .860 OPS. “I think in my first 20 at-bats I had three hits. It was just figuring out, when facing a pitcher, what to look for, and trusting what I could do. I used to not be able to hit to the opposite field, and now it’s all I do.

“Hits are hits, so I’m not complaining.”

“He’s a very competitive kid,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “He competes at everything he does. Just such a great kid.”

Grace, who is from Concord, Mass., was a freshman at Quinnipiac this season, but sat out the season as a redshirt. He’ll attend Colby College in Maine this fall, an NCAA Division III school.

Grace likes to travel, and getting a chance to play in the Midwest was something he had to take.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I thank (Oreskovich) for giving me the opportunity to play. I had a hard time finding somewhere. I’ve tried to make the most of it, and I think I have during the summer.

“I’ve always wanted to travel, but haven’t been able to because of baseball in the summer. I played all over New England every summer. This was the farthest from home. I always wanted to try to come to the Midwest, and I’m glad I came out here. I love it.”

Grace said he appreciated the “family culture” with the organization.

“The fans are awesome,” he said. “They know me. I go up to bat, I hear someone yell, ‘Let’s go Ryan.’ It was weird hearing it at first, but I’m used to it now.”

There were some other things he had to get used to, like the angle of the sun when it sets early in night games at Community Field.

“If that ball was hit to third base, I was like, skip the ball to me, because I couldn’t see it,” Grace said, laughing. “Even when the pitchers would try pickoffs. I was praying to God for them not to throw it over.”

Grace played right field for the first time in Friday’s loss to Quincy. He had three putouts, including a foul popup he was able to chase down.

“I’ve always wanted to play the outfield, but I never have been able to,” said Grace, who said he dropped 50 pounds after arriving at Quinnipiac last fall. “It was a good accomplishment to be in there. Made a catch or two, made it look as natural as I could. It’s something I wanted to pursue. Anything to get in the lineup. I’ll play anywhere.”

Oreskovich said he hated to see Grace leave.

“Ryan Grace makes everyone on the team laugh,” he said. “One of those guys that keeps everyone loose. Yeah, we’re going to miss him.”

Grace won’t be leaving the same way he came.

“Driving to Chicago,” he said, smiling. “A lot smoother ride.”

Photo: Bees first baseman Ryan Grace hit .340 this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 13, CORNBELTERS 3: Green Goes The Distance To Snap Streak

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)

GEMS 14, BEES 4: Tampa, Grace Provide The Few Bright Spots

By John Bohnenkamp

It was going to be hard for Burlington Bees manager Owen Oreskovich to find any positives in the 14-4 loss to the Quincy Gems in Friday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

Mentioning Nick Tampa’s name though, changed that.

Tampa has been one of the whatever-you-need players of the Bees this season, and he was that again on a night when Quincy could have made this game a lot uglier.

Tampa allowed one run and two hits in three innings of relief, striking out six.

“That kid competes every time he’s out there,” Oreskovich said. “Normally he’s in a role where he’s in a little more pressure, but he didn’t have to deal with that. He was able to go out there and do that thing, with a ball that moves the way that it does. He did a fantastic job.

“It could have been extremely … it was bad. It was terrible. It could have been a lot worse.”

Tampa has played the outfield and come out of the bullpen this season. He’s hitting .273, and as a pitcher struck out 28 in 22 1/3 innings.

“He’s done absolutely everything,” Oreskovich said. “He’s hit, he’s pitched, he’s played the outfield. Shows up with a smile every day. Cares. That’s all you can ask from a kid.”

The Bees (18-34, 7-14 second half) have lost nine consecutive games. They’ve given up 89 runs in the streak, with the Gems (28-24, 9-11) scoring 13 in the first four innings of this game.

“It’s pretty damn frustrating,” Oreskovich said. “A few of these games in this losing stretch, we had every chance in the world to win, and couldn’t do it. Couldn’t add on runs, couldn’t get a few more guys out. It’s probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life at this point in the baseball world.

“Yeah, not too much to be happy about in a losing streak like this.”

The Bees showed a little offense in the fourth and fifth innings. Weston Fulk’s triple scored Ryan Grace with Burlington’s first run, then Grace drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double in the fifth.

Grace is batting .330 this season, and extended his hitting streak to seven games.

“He’s a very competitive kid,” Oreskovich said. “That was another one that if it doesn’t happen, it could have made the game a lot worse than it was, and it was pretty damn bad already.”

Tim O’Connor (1-0) was the winning pitcher, striking out seven in five innings. Jared Townsend (1-6) was the losing pitcher.

Photo: Nick Tampa allowed just one run in three innings in Friday’s loss. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: Riley Is Back To Play In A Familiar Spot

By John Bohnenkamp

Owen Oreskovich was asked last Monday about what it meant to have Lincoln Riley back in center field for the Burlington Bees.

The Bees manager pointed to Riley’s diving catch for the second out in the ninth inning of the 6-5 win over the O’Fallon Hoots at Community Field.

“See those plays out in center today?” Oreskovich said, smiling. “That’s what it means to me to have him back.”

Five nights later, after Riley made another diving catch to get the Bees out of a first inning in which they had surrendered two runs and were dealing with runners on second and third base, Oreskovich just had to marvel again.

“That saves that inning,” Oreskovich said after the 5-3 loss to the Alton River Dragons.

It’s Riley’s second season with the Bees, and he knows the Community Field outfield well. He played in the stadium last spring as a member of Southeastern Community College’s baseball team, and then last summer with the Bees.

“It feels great to be back,” Riley said. “When I was driving back here, all of the memories were coming back, from Southeastern, last summer here.”

Riley, getting ready for his senior season at Eastern Illinois University, is glad to be playing again. He suffered an ankle injury on May 20 in EIU’s final regular-season series against Southeast Missouri State, and spent the time since then trying to get back on the field.

“It sucked sitting on the couch, not being able to play,” Riley said. “But it’s good to be back here playing.

“When I got here, it was good to see some of the guys I played with last season. Some of the guys who have been here all year, you can see they’re a little tired. I was in that situation last year, playing all spring and all summer. It’s tiring getting into these dog days. It was good to see these guys, get to know them. This is a good team, and I’m glad to be here and be a part of it.”

If the ankle is bothering him — Riley said that it can be “a little uncomfortable” at times — it hasn’t shown in his play in center field.

“When he gets out in the outfield, I don’t think he feels a thing,” Oreskovich said. “He hawks balls down, and it’s incredible to watch when you’re here. Any ball to center, I feel like it’s going to be an out. Even if it’s hit to the wall, I think he’s going to run it down.”

Riley’s talent at reading fly balls is something he said he’s acquired throughout a long career of playing in the outfield.

“The big thing is just getting reps,” said Riley, who grew up in Marion, Iowa and played at Cedar Rapids Washington High School. “Just seeing the ball off the bat is crazy important. Being out there all of the time throughout the years, the reps are so important.”

“It’s his jumps,” Oreskovich said. “I mean, if you watch, when the ball gets hit, you turn, he’s already in full sprint. His routes, and jumps, are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I said it last summer, he’s been the best center fielder I’ve ever been around.”

Riley found himself at the top of the Bees’ batting order when he arrived. He is hitting .267 with a .450 on-base percentage.

“I know he’s been a little frustrated with his hitting,” Oreskovich said. “He’s such a competitive kid, like, ‘I want to do it right now.’ Once we get his bat going, he’ll be even more of an incredible asset to this team.”

“I’ve been (leading off) for a while right now, so it’s a spot I’m comfortable at,” Riley said. “But anywhere in the lineup, I’m fine with it. Wherever O puts me, I’ll play.”

Riley is comfortable with the outfielders around him, whether it’s A.J. Henkle or Sam Monroe or Kevin Santiago. There can be friendly banter between the outfielders during the game, and everyone, Riley said, does a good job with communication.

“It’s really good to have that speed that we have out there,” Riley said. “But what it comes down to is communication. With all of those fast guys out there, you need to be able to communicate. But we do well with that.

“It’s good to have a good outfield.”

Riley hit .279 with a .467 on-base percentage at EIU last season. He is a corporate communications major, and he’s appreciating the chance to keep his baseball career going, even if it might be for a short time.

“Honestly, for me, this may be my last year in baseball,” Riley said. “You never know. So it’s about having fun, taking it all in. You don’t get to play baseball for your whole life. So, I’m just trying to have fun, get some reps in before I get back to school.”

Being back in a familiar place helps.

“Burlington just has a spot in my heart,” Riley said. “This is a really cool baseball place. And there are great people here. I’m enjoying it.”

Photo: Bees center fielder Lincoln Riley makes a diving catch to end the first inning in Saturday’s game against Alton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

RIVER DRAGONS 6, BEES 2: Nothing Falls Right In Loss

By John Bohnenkamp

Ben Tallman took half of a home-run trot.

The Burlington Bees’ catcher made sure to touch first base and second base as his deep fly ball to left field settled into the glove of Alton’s Troy Johnson.

As Tallman cut his trot short, he motioned to the sky and the wind blowing in from left field that knocked down his fly ball.

It was that kind of day, again, for the Bees in Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Alton River Dragons in a Prospect League game at Community Field.

The Bees (18-29 overall, 7-9 second half), who have lost four consecutive games, fell three games behind the Normal CornBelters in the Great River Division second-half standings heading into Monday’s game between the two teams at Community Field.

The Bees put the ball into play all day against the River Dragons, only striking out twice. But getting those hits to fall was a different matter.

“I thought we hit some balls really well,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “Just right at some guys.”

Tallman’s ball, one of the hardest-hit ones of day by the Bees, died in the wind that emerged from the northwest early in the game.

“The wind didn’t do us any favors,” Oreskovich said. “That ball Benny hit was hit pretty well. That ball’s leaving on a normal day.

“The score of that game doesn’t dictate how I felt about the game.”

The Bees got a strong first five innings out of starter Jared Townsend (1-5), who walked two and struck out six. But Townsend, who gave up one hit and one run through those early innings, gave up three runs in the sixth inning as Alton (25-23, 7-9 Prairie Land Division) second half rallied to take a 4-2 lead.

“I thought Townsend was amazing,” Oreskovich said. “I thought this was one of his best starts that he’s had this summer. He just had that one tough inning, where he gave up four hits to five batters. They just got some balls to fall, and we didn’t get balls to fall for us.”

The Bees had six hits, but left nine baserunners.

“I thought we had a good approach at the plate,” Oreskovich said. “Overall, I thought it was a good game for us. We just didn’t win. No one would realize that if you weren’t here watching the game.

“I can’t say we were striking out with guys in scoring position. We were hitting the ball.”

Ryan Grace had two hits and drove in two runs for the Bees. Kevin Santiago also had two hits.

Alex Redman (1-0) was the winning pitcher for Alton.

Photo: Bees shortstop Charlie Terrill throws to first in Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

RIVER DRAGONS 5, BEES 3: Opportunities Lost In Loss

By John Bohnenkamp

Lincoln Riley’s eighth-inning line drive seemed ticketed for center field, but instead in landed in the glove of well-positioned Alton shortstop Robby Taul.

Taul seemed to be in the right place at the right time in the final two innings of the Burlington Bees’ 5-3 loss to the Alton River Dragons in Saturday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

The Bees (18-28 overall, 7-8 second half), who started the week in first place in the Great River Division, lost their third consecutive game, falling 2 1/2 games behind the Normal CornBelters, who are on a six-game winning streak.

The comeback magic that the Bees have come up with at times during the season didn’t show up on Saturday night. Riley’s line drive ended an inning in which Burlington had runners on first and third with one out, but couldn’t score. In the ninth, Sam Monroe and Kevin Santiago walked to open the inning, but a strikeout by Marcos Sanchez followed by a double play started by Taul on Mitch Wood’s ground ball ended that threat.

“That seems like the way it was going today,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said of Riley’s line drive.

The Bees did rally from a 5-1 deficit. Alex Brodie’s single drove in Weston Fulk in the fourth inning and Sanchez’s single scored Monroe in the seventh.

Getting those last two runs, though, wasn’t going to happen on this night.

The Bees outhit the River Dragons 9-6 — Sanchez, Brodie and Charlie Terrill each had two hits, but left 11 baserunners.

“I thought we did great in the box today,” Oreskovich said. “We hit balls hard. Had chances to score and didn’t get the big hit. We outhit them, and you should win the ballgame when you outhit them.”

Bees starting pitcher Elijah Green (0-1) allowed just three hits over five innings. He gave up five runs, but only three were earned. Reliever Brady Schiesl pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out four.

“I thought Eli pitched a hell of a game,” Oreskovich said. “He really competed. And shout out to Schies, he did a great job. He filled it up, and that’s all I ask out of these guys.

“It was just one of those days.”

Photo: Burlington’s Lincoln Riley avoids the tag from Alton’s Ethan Kleinheider on a fifth-inning double. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 11, LUCKY HORSESHOES 4: Quick Six Sets The Tone

By John Bohnenkamp

A battle for first place awaits the Burlington Bees.

The Bees maintained their half-game lead in the Prospect League’s Great River Division with an 11-4 win over the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes on Wednesday at Community Field.

Burlington (18-25 overall, 7-5 second half) takes a half-game lead into Thursday’s game at Normal (21-22, 7-6). The Bees and CornBelters play four games against each other — two in Normal, two in Burlington — in the final 2 1/2 weeks of the regular season, so this is a race that can go on for a while.

But for Bees manager Owen Oreskovich, it’s about his team doing what it’s been doing during its current four-game winning streak.

“They know. I don’t really talk about that with them, or need them worrying about that,” he said. “It shouldn’t really be a worry. I don’t want them going into that. I want them playing baseball, that’s what they came here to do, so it’s what I want them to do. Go out there and enjoy it.”

There is a confidence with the Bees right now.

“Especially if we, like, get down in a game,” Oreskovich said. “It’s not like it was early in the season, where it was, ‘Here we go again.’ Now it’s, ‘We’re going to get a hit, take a lead here.’”

There was no need to rally in this game. The Bees scored three runs in each of the first two innings, then added five more in the fourth in an inning in which they had just one hit.

Burlington had just six hits in the game, taking advantage of 11 walks by the Lucky Horseshoes (18-26, 6-6).

“We weren’t chasing pitches, and getting to pitches to hit when we did have a chance,” Oreskovich said.

The lead was good enough for Bees starter Garrett Moltzan (2-3), who allowed three runs in five innings.

“It made it a lot easier,” Oreskovich said of the fast start. “It allows G-Mo to go out there and relax, the position players go out there and relax.”

Marcos Sanchez had three hits and drove in two runs for the Bees. Nolan Elmore also drove in two runs.

ON DECK: Paolo Zavala (0-5, 9.59 ERA) starts for the Bees in Thursday’s game.

NOTES: Bees right fielder A.J. Henkle is hitting .429 over his last five games. Henkle was 1-for-3 on Wednesday. … Center fielder Lincoln Riley reached base four times in the first four innings. 

Photo: Bees left fielder Sam Monroe makes a running catch to end the first inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)