THE MONDAY HIVE: Final Weeks Of The Season Bring Roster Changes

By John Bohnenkamp

Sam Monroe looked like a veteran at the bottom of the Burlington Bees’ lineup on Sunday.

Monroe had two singles, a walk, and drove in two runs in the 8-4 loss to the Quincy Gems.

His four plate appearances — Monroe grounded out to end the second inning — were his first in the Prospect League this season.

“Today was the first time I saw him swing,” Bees assistant coach Owen Oreskovich said. “He seems like a great kid. Can run, hit. Hit well for us today.”

It’s late in the season — the Bees have just 15 games to go on the regular-season schedule — but the roster has gone through plenty of changes in the last couple of weeks.

The Bees have 26 players on the roster. Eight players have left the team for various reasons, but it’s part of a natural evolution in the summer league for college players who are coming off a lengthy season at their schools. Quincy, for example, has lost four players.

“Toward the end of the summer, it gets tough,” Oreskovich said. “Kids have playing since the fall, it’s a long time.”

Monroe, who was a freshman this season at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, was added to the roster over the weekend. Outfielder A.J. Henkle and infielder Joey Fitzgerald were added last week.

“They’re good players, they know how to play,” Bees manager Gary McClure said about Henkle and Fitzgerald earlier in the week. “They bring some tools with them.”

Finding new players means relying on connections. McClure was a long-time college head coach. Oreskovich is an assistant coach at McHenry County (Ill.) College. Pitching coach Scott Barnum is an assistant coach at Howard College.

“It’s all we can rely on right now,” Oreskovich said of the networks the three have within college baseball. “It’s just guys that me, Scott and Mac know.”

Henkle, for example, played at McHenry County College and was coached by Oreskovich.

“I coached A.J., and he played baseball with my brother growing up, at the same community college I went to,” Oreskovich said.

“It’s hard to find good players,” McClure said. “But we had a couple there Coach O knew about it. He had coached one of them. The other one was his best buddy, so he brought him along with him.”

Monroe was a freshman last season at Southeastern Community College and was teammates with four other SCC players on the Bees’ roster.

It hasn’t been a problem inside the clubhouse, Oreskovich said.

“All of the new guys we’ve brought in have been good with the other guys we’ve had here,” Oreskovich said. “That’s great for them, and everyone else.

“It’s a little different. It’s tough to get guys in the right situations sometimes. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

THE WEEK AHEAD

• Tuesday, at Quincy. If the Bees want to get back in the playoff chase, this would be a good place to start. The Gems lead the Great River Division in the second-half standings, with the Bees three games back.

• Wednesday, vs. Illinois Valley. Thursday, at Illinois Valley. The Bees have a home-and-home series with the Pistol Shrimp, who are 5-9 in the second half.

• Friday, vs. Quincy. Saturday-Sunday, vs. Lafayette. A weekend homestand for the Bees, who get the Gems first before playing two games against the Aviators, who are 14-2 in the second half.

Photo: Sam Monroe tracks down a fly ball in Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

GEMS 8, BEES 4: Errors Lead To A Big Hill Of Runs

By John Bohnenkamp

It took 22 minutes for the rest of the day to be ruined for the Burlington Bees.

The Bees committed three errors in the top of the first inning, leading to five runs for the Quincy Gems in their 8-4 win in Sunday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

The Bees (22-23 overall, 7-9 second half) fell three games behind the Gems (23-20, 10-6) in the Great River Division standings.

The rough first inning loomed over the rest of the game.

“We made errors, and they had some hits,” said Bees assistant coach Owen Oreskovich. “You make errors in the first inning, give up five runs, it’s hard to come back. You just have to chip away and we didn’t do that.”

Ryan Hutchinson opened the inning with a double off Garrett Moltzan. Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli followed with a hard ground ball that first baseman Austin Simpson fielded with a dive, but Moltzan didn’t cover first base until it was too late, putting runners at first and third.

The inning just got worse. Two errors by second baseman Zane Zielinski and an error by left fielder Sam Monroe added to the misery, as the Gems sent 10 batters to the plate. Only two of the runs were earned.

The outburst was made worse by the Bees’ inability lately to score runs. Monroe’s RBI single drove in Joey Fitzgerald to break a 20-inning scoreless spell.

“Twenty scoreless? I didn’t know that,” Oreskovich said. “We’ve had some tough breaks in the last few games. We’ve left a lot of guys on base. But that’s baseball, that happens.”

The Bees left 13 runners on in this game.

Time is running out on the season — 15 games remain on the schedule.

“We’re going to need hits with runners on,” Oreskovich said. “Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in. We’ll need timely hitting, which we haven’t gotten recently. And we’re going to need good pitching.”

THE NEW GUY: Monroe, who plays at Southeastern Community College, joined the team before the game and was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. He reached base three times — he had a walk in the seventh inning.

BULLPEN HELP: Moltzan lasted just one-third of an inning, but the Bees got 5 2/3 strong innings from reliever Brady McLean, who allowed three hits and struck out two while giving up just one run.

“He did a great job,” Oreskovich said. “He’s done a great job for us lately. He’s a great pitcher, such a competitor.”

Greg Ryun allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings. K.J. Baker closed the game with 1 2/3 shutout innings.

“Our bullpen was phenomenal,” Oreskovich said.

BIG DIVE: Bees center fielder Lincoln Riley had the play of the day with a diving catch to end the fourth inning.

Quincy had a runner on with two outs when Alex Watermann hit a deep fly ball into left-center field that Riley raced down, diving at the last second to make the catch.

UP NEXT: The Bees have Monday off before playing at Quincy on Tuesday.

Photo: Bees center fielder Lincoln Riley lays out to make the catch to end the fourth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 7, PISTOL SHRIMP 5: Zielinski’s Homer Caps Comeback

By John Bohnenkamp

Zane Zielinski’s three-run home run went to one of the deepest parts of Community Field.

“Maybe wind-aided a little bit, but I’ll take it,” the Burlington Bees second baseman said, laughing.

OK, maybe. But it still got out over the left-center field fence in the sixth inning, lifting the Bees to a 7-5 win over the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp in Wednesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

The Bees (20-20 overall, 5-6 second half) are 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Great River Division heading into a key six-game stretch against divisional rivals that begins with Thursday’s game at Clinton.

The Bees, who were down 4-1 after three innings, trailed 4-3 in the sixth and had runners on second and third with two outs when Zielinski homered off reliever Ryan Palmblad.

“He threw one curveball and I fouled it off, so I knew I could see that,” Zielinski said. “I was sitting on fastball, just waiting to adjust on the curve. Saw it coming in, so I just swung on it.”

It was the second home run of the season for Zielinski, who had struck out in his first two at-bats.

“It meant a lot,” Zielinski said. “I wasn’t doing a lot at the plate to start the day, so it felt good to help the team to take the lead. I’m just trying to hit a ball hard, drive someone in, maybe move someone over.”

“I was glad to see that for Z,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He got into one, a big home run.”

Zielinski had just one hit in his previous 10 at-bats before the home run.

“It was a big hit for team, a big hit for the him,” McClure said. “He’s been struggling a little bit.”

Jack Gray (2-1) was the winning pitcher in relief. Reece Wissinger got his third save.

Tyler Conkilin (0-1) was the losing pitcher.

BACK IN RHYTHM: The Bees lost two dates against the Normal CornBelters because of rain last weekend, then had Monday off before Tuesday’s 7-5 loss at Illinois Valley.

That time off set the Bees back a little bit, McClure said.

“That hurt us,” McClure said. “ A couple of days off, OK. But when you’re playing every day, and all of the sudden you have three days long days, where these guys don’t have anything to do. It gets you out of your rhythm a little bit, for sure.”

The Bees will play a 5 p.m. doubleheader at home against the CornBelters on Friday, then have another doubleheader scheduled for July 31 at Community Field.

HARRIS’ NIGHT: Bees starting pitcher McLain Harris struck out seven over five innings, allowing four runs, although only two were earned.

“Harris threw the ball really well,” McClure said. “We gave up at least two unearned runs, and maybe three. He pitched well.”

It was Harris’ first outing since an 11-7 loss to O’Fallon on July 4, when he was charged with only two earned runs of the six he gave up in a game in which the Bees committed six errors.

A throwing error cost him two unearned runs in the third inning of this game.

“We’ve kicked the ball around when he’s been on the mound here lately,” McClure said. “He did what he’s done all year. He keeps you in the ballgame. He gives you a chance to win every time he’s out there.”

Photo: Zane Zielinski hits his three-run home run in the sixth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: A Look At The Bees’ Past

By John Bohnenkamp

Hector Yan was on a big stage on Sunday.

The former Burlington Bees pitcher was part of Major League Baseball’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field in Denver.

Yan, a left-hander, pitched 2/3 of an inning, walking one, for the American League team in the 8-3 loss to the National League.

Yan, ranked the No. 8 prospect in the Los Angeles Angels organization by Baseball America, is pitching for the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Angels’ affiliate in the High-A West league this season. He is 0-5 with a 6.02 earned run average, but has struck out 51 in 46 1/3 innings.

A look at some of the players who played for the Bees in the last few seasons when they were a Midwest League (Low-A) affiliate of the Angels:

Jo Adell (2018), the Angels’ top prospect according to Baseball America, is batting .275 with 18 home runs and 50 runs batted in in Triple-A. Adell, an outfielder, played 38 games for the Angels last season, with three home runs and a .161 average.

• Outfielder Brandon Marsh (2018), the No. 2 prospect, is also at Triple-A. He’s batting .253 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.

Chris Rodriguez (2017), the No. 3 prospect, is in Double-A, but was with the Angels to start the season. He was 2-0 with a 3.66 ERA, striking out 20 in 19 2/3 innings. At Double-A, Rodriguez is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA.

• Outfielder Jordyn Adams (2019), the No. 5 prospect, is batting .181 with one home run and 11 RBIs at High-A.

Oliver Ortega (2018), ranked as the No. 10 prospect, is pitching in Double-A. He is 2-2 with a 7.40 ERA, striking out 35 in 24 1/3 innings.

Denny Brady (2018), the No. 17 prospect, is 0-1 in Double A, striking out 23 in 15 2/3 innings.

• Infielder Livan Soto (2019), the No. 20 prospect, is batting .205 in High-A, with five home runs and 16 RBIs.

• Outfielder Orlando Martinez (2018), the No. 23 prospect, is batting .245 in Double-A with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.

Robinson Pina (2019), ranked as the No. 29 prospect, is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in High-A. He has struck out 67 in 47 2/3 innings.

Austin Warren (2018), the No. 30 prospect, is 2-2 with one save and a 7.57 ERA in Triple-A. He has struck out 32 in 27 1/3 innings.

Some other interesting stories among the Bees’ alumni:

• Pitcher Andrew Wantz (2018) is with the Angels. His lone appearance was on July 4 against Baltimore when he struck out two and allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings.

• Infielder Michael Stefanic (2019) has risen to Triple-A this season. Stefanic is hitting .313 with seven home runs and 30 runs batted in, after hitting .345 to open the season at Double-A.

• Pitcher John Swanda (2019), a Des Moines native who underwent elbow surgery during the 2019 season with the Bees, is at Low-A Inland Empire. Swanda is 2-5 with a 5.69 ERA. He has struck out 43 in 49 innings.

• First baseman David MacKinnon (2018) is batting .335 in Double-A, with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.

THE WEEK AHEAD

• Tuesday, at Illinois Valley. Wednesday, vs. Illinois Valley. The Bees get the first of two home-and-home series with the Pistol Shrimp, who play in the Prospect League’s Eastern Conference.

• Thursday, at Clinton. Friday, vs. Normal. Saturday, at Quincy. Sunday, vs. Quincy. The Bees are 1 1/2 games back in the Great River Division standings, which makes this a pivotal weekend against the other three teams in their division.

Photo: Hector Yan throws a pitch for the Burlington Bees in 2019. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 12, LUMBERKINGS 3: Long Goes Long Enough In Win

By John Bohnenkamp

Andrew Long didn’t quite make it through the seventh inning.

What the right-hander gave the Burlington Bees on Tuesday night was more than enough.

Long had his longest outing of the season, going 6 1/3 innings in the Bees’ 12-3 win over the Clinton LumberKings in Tuesday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

Long (1-2) came into the game with a 6.94 earned run average in five starts, but held the LumberKings to four hits and two earned runs while striking out four.

“It’s been my goal all season to get through the seventh inning, and I didn’t quite make it,” Long said. “Came up two outs short, but it felt good to get there.”

Long gave up a triple to Matt Scherrman to start the inning, then threw a wild pitch that allowed Scherrman to score. Long then got Brayden Frazier to ground out for the first out of the inning. 

Long was at 91 pitches, four short of the league maximum for a game, so Bees manager Gary McClure thought it was time to end Long’s night and go to reliever Garrett Langrell.

“He only had a few more pitches to go,” McClure said. “I thought he was getting a little bit tired. I thought he should finish on a good note, instead of struggling through another hitter or two and then all of the sudden a good outing turns into a not-so-good outing.”

“Still a little upset about letting that one run score, but it worked out in the end,” Long said. “I was glad to give the ball to Langrell with no runners on and an out on the board.”

Long, who pitched this season at Southeastern Community College, has had three outings of five innings this season. He has allowed 34 hits in 29 2/3 innings.

“I’ve learned to rust the defense, really,” Long said. “Pitch in the (strike) zone, it doesn’t matter if you get hit, you’ve got (defense) for a reason. Just really compete in the zone, and don’t let up no matter what.”

Long retired the side in order in three of the first four innings. He struck out the side in the third inning.

“I felt good with all my pitches,” he said. “Just trusted my defense to be there if I got hit around a little bit. Felt good, really confident today. I came off the mound (after the third), felt really good, and tried to roll off that momentum.”

Long gave up two runs in the fifth. Scherrman led off with a single. Frazier followed with a single down the left-field line, and a throwing error allowed Scherrman to score and Frazier to get to third. Frazier scored on Max Holy’s ground out.

“Long came out and pitched really, really well,” McClure said. “I think he could have gotten out of it with no runs, possibly, maybe a run.”

TABLE SETTER: Bees shortstop Ben Nippolt, put in the leadoff spot for the game, reached base in all six plate appearances.

Nippolt walked four times, had a solo home run in the third inning and a single in the fourth, and scored three runs.

Nippolt is batting .364 over his last nine games.

“He’s been swinging the bat good, he’s been taking walks,” McClure said. “And he had a home run to boot.”

POWER PLANT: Nippolt, Jackson Jones and Rome Wallace each had home runs for the Bees, but Wallace just missed a second one that would have ended the game.

The Bees were up 10-3 in the eighth and had the bases loaded when Wallace hit a deep drive down the left-field line that just missed being a fair ball. Had it gone out, the game would have been over because of the 10-run rule.

McClure argued the call with plate umpire Gabe Vargas to no avail.

CLEAN IT UP: The Bees had six errors in Sunday’s loss to O’Fallon, and McClure met with the position players before this game.

The Bees had just two errors in the game, but only one led to any runs.

“I think the guys took it to heart,” McClure said. “It was a good time for them to listen, I think. It’s one thing to talk, it’s another thing to go out and play well.”

Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Andrew Long gave up two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s win over Clinton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: Breaking Down The First Half

By John Bohnenkamp

The Burlington Bees opened the second half of the Prospect League season on Thursday.

The Bees closed the first half at 15-14, 1/2-game behind the Normal CornBelters for the Great River Division first-half title.

A look at the Bees’ numbers for the first half:

• Record: 15-14 (9th best in Prospect League)

• Batting average: .283 (2nd)

• ERA: 5.17 (5th)

• Fielding percentage: .952 (T-12th)

• May batting average: .294

• May earned run average: 4.15

• June batting average: .280

• June ERA: 5.36

Some superlatives for the month:

• Jackson Jones had an 11-game road hitting streak.

• Kevin Santiago had an 8-game home hitting streak.

• Mason Land had three sacrifice flies in the June 4 game against O’Fallon.

• Ben Nippolt tied for the league lead with 23 walks.

• Jones had 115 at-bats, third most in the league. He led the league with 12 doubles and 20 extra-base hits, and was tied for fourth in the league with 8 home runs. He had 41 hits, tied for third.

• Pitcher McLain Harris was eighth in the league in ERA at 2.80, and tied for second in the league in strikeouts with 41. Harris led the league with 35 1/3 innings pitched.

• Reliever Garrett Langrell had four wins.

TAKING CARE OF THE FIELD

You can often catch Bees manager Gary McClure and his coaching staff working on the field before the game.

It’s something McClure said he appreciates.

“It can be a little bit soothing at times, if you’re not in a big, big rush,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed working on the field.”

It was especially challenging in the last couple of weeks, considering the rain. Burlington had 5.18 inches of rain for the month.

“The field drains well,” McClure said. “It does a great job of taking in the water.”

The rain, of course, leads to one thing McClure doesn’t like — putting the tarp on the field, and then taking it off after the rain.

“I don’t like the tarp, at all,” he said. “Hate it. The other stuff, I’m fine with.”

THE WEEK AHEAD

• Tuesday, vs. Clinton. After an off-day on Monday, the Bees play host to the LumberKings in a Great River Division game.

• Thursday, at O’Fallon and Friday, at Alton. The Bees make a two-game road swing through the Prairie Land Division.

• Saturday and Sunday, vs. Normal. It’s a two-game home series with the CornBelters in a key division showdown.

Photo: Jackson Jones led the Prospect League in doubles and extra-base hits in the first half. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

HOOTS 11, BEES 7: Sloppy Defense Hurts Harris In Loss

By John Bohnenkamp

The Burlington Bees committed six errors in Sunday’s 11-7 loss to the O’Fallon Hoots, but Bees manager Gary McClure added one more that won’t show up in the box score.

“I think it just comes down to being prepared to play,” McClure said. “And that’s a mental error in itself.”

What was another solid pitching outing from McLain Harris was ruined by the Bees’ mistakes in the field. Harris gave up six runs in 5 1/3 innings, but only two were earned.

The right-hander, one of the Prospect League’s top pitchers with a 2.88 earned run average and 48 strikeouts, struck out seven, but his pitch count ran out in the sixth inning.

“I feel bad for Harris — he pitched a great game,” McClure said. “And had he not had all of those (errors) he might have went into the eighth inning today.  But his pitch count got up there more because of that.”

The Bees’ fielding struggles started with the first batter, when Luke Vinson turned a slow grounder up the middle into a double. He then stole third and scored when catcher Chase Honeycutt’s throw went into left field.

Another error in the third inning led to the Hoots’ second run, then two more errors gave O’Fallon two runs in the fifth inning without the benefit of a hit.

“Not only did we make errors, but every one of them scored,” McClure said. “We had more errors in the fifth inning than they had hits. You’re not going to win like that.”

Harris (3-2) gave up six hits and had no walks.

“He was probably the highlight of the day,” McClure said. “Pitched really well, gave us a great game, gave us a great opportunity to win. But we didn’t give ourselves a great opportunity to win.”

Clayton Stephens had two home runs for the Hoots, including a three-run homer in the seventh inning that gave O’Fallon a 10-2 lead.

The Bees got two home runs from Marcos Sanchez and one from Jackson Jones. The two have combined for 19 home runs this season.

“(Sanchez) is getting pitches to hit, and hitting them,” McClure said. “Same thing with Jones. Those guys have got a plan when they go to the plate.”

Bees center fielder Lincoln Riley extended his hitting streak to nine by going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs batted in. Riley is hitting .378 in the streak.

“He’s just a grinder,” McClure said.

Jackson Keller (2-0) was the winning pitcher.

Photo: Marcos Sanchez rounds the bases after his second home run in Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

LUMBERKINGS 10, BEES 9: McCleary’s Home Run Spoils Comeback

By John Bohnenkamp

It was a steady climb from a big deficit until Brett McCleary put up a roadblock.

The Burlington Bees, down seven runs after 4 1/2 innings in Saturday’s Prospect League game against the Clinton LumberKings, rallied to tie the game, only to have McCleary deliver the eventual game-winning run with an eighth-inning home run in a 10-9 victory.

For all of the clutch hits the Bees (17-16 overall, 2-2 second half) had on the night, they couldn’t come up with one more in their half of the eighth, when they had two runners on to start the inning and didn’t score.

“We didn’t execute,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “We made a great comeback.”

The Bees, down 9-3 in the fifth, scored three runs in the bottom of the inning — two on Jackson Jones’ second home run of the game — and four in the seventh to tie the game.

But McCleary, who plays at Iowa, broke the tie with a home run to left-center field off Garrett Langrell (5-1).

The Bees tried to rally in the bottom of the inning. Zane Zielinski and Ben Nippolt led off with walks, then McClure called on pinch-hitter Nathan Ebersole to move the runners over. Ebersole tried to pull his bunt attempt back with two strikes, but base umpire Eric Gadski ruled on appeal that Ebersole had offered at the pitch for the third strike.

Reid Halfacre’s flyout and Lincoln Riley’s groundout ended the inning.

“We had a really tough call on the bunt,” McClure said. “That changed everything, obviously.”

Jones opened the scoring with a first-inning home run to right field, then Clinton scored three runs in the second off Bees starter Garrett Moltzan. Burlington got a run back in the fourth on Zielinski’s sacrifice fly.

The fifth was when the game fell apart for the Bees.  A dropped third strike started the inning, then the failure to turn a double play ended up costing Burlington even more. By the time the inning was over, Clinton had a 9-2 lead.

“We had to make a play. We didn’t,” McClure said. “And you don’t win close games by not making plays.”

Ryne Schooley (2-1) was the winning pitcher. Graysen Drezek pitched the final two innings, striking out five, to pick up his first save.

“They played really hard, and you can’t take that away from them,” McClure said of the way his team battled back. “But we made mistakes, and that’s why we lost the ballgame. They played really hard, and I’m proud of them for that.”

Photo: Burlington’s Jackson Jones hits his second home run of the game in Saturday’s 10-9 loss to Clinton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 11, LUMBERKINGS 5: Evans Makes Quick Work Of Clinton

By John Bohnenkamp

Jalen Evans wished there wasn’t a pitch count in the Prospect League.

Evans allowed three hits in seven crisp innings in the Burlington Bees’ 11-5 win over the Clinton LumberKings on Friday night.

Evans threw 92 pitches, 51 for strikes. The league’s pitch limit is 95 pitches, but Evans thought he could have gone longer.

“I felt pretty good,” he said.

Evans (2-0) lowered his earned run average to 2.28 in four starts. He has allowed just 14 hits in 23 2/3 innings, striking out 24.

“He’s got a great fastball, he throws a great slider,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “When he pitches ahead in the count, he’s dominating.”

The only run off Evans came in the third inning, when Bryce Dreher singled to drive in Brayden Frazier. Evans faced the minimum in the final four innings — the only baserunner was Frazier in the fifth, when he walked and then was thrown out trying to steal second base to end the inning.

Burlington Bees second baseman Nathan Ebersole tags out Clinton’s Brayden Frazier to end the fifth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

“I was trying to be aggressive in the (strike) zone,” Evans said. “The pitch count was getting a little behind, but I was just trying to find the feel.”

Evans is a fast worker, and he made quick work of the LumberKings.

“I know tempo is a big thing,” he said. “Just not giving hitters a chance to think, and just feeding off that momentum. It works for me, so I keep going with it.”

“He goes at guys,” McClure said. “He’s got more of a reliever’s mentality, to be honest. He gets it, and goes.”

Evans was helped by three home runs — solo shots by Marcos Sanchez in the second inning and Kevin Santiago in the fourth. Lincoln Riley added a two-run home run in the sixth.

“We definitely hit the long ball, and they were all pretty doggone good,” McClure said. “Marcos, I think he hit over the house (behind the right-field fence). Kevin’s was long, too.”

“Those were really big,” Evans said. “That gives you a lot more confidence. But at the same time, I keep the same mentality, like it’s a 0-0 ballgame, to try to keep my going.”

The Bees (17-15 overall, 2-1 second half) then scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh without a hit. Three Clinton relievers combined for six walks and three hit batters.

“It’s not really a lot of fun for anybody,” McClure said of the inning. “It’s a lot more fun on our side scoring runs. It’s not a lot of fun for anybody when guys are walking the park. And they did there in that inning.”

Clinton (12-19, 0-2) got four runs in the eighth inning on just one hit, sending nine batters to the plate.

Matt Scherman (3-2) was the losing pitcher.

STREAKING: Riley went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Riley is hitting .313 for the season, .393 during the streak. “He’s been good,” McClure said. “He’s a guy who gets on base, but he does other things, too. He drives in runs — he’s hitting unbelievable with guys in scoring position. He’s an unbelievable player. Plus, he plays an unbelievable center field — he goes and gets balls.”

ON DECK: The Bees and LumberKings conclude their two-game series with a 6:30 p.m. game Saturday.

Top photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Jalen Evans allowed three hits in seven innings in Friday’s 11-5 win over the Clinton LumberKings. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 3-2, CORNBELTERS 6-0: Sagedahl Keeps Normal Guessing In Doubleheader Split

By John Bohnenkamp

Chas Sagedahl had struggled in his first three starts with the Burlington Bees.

Everything came together for the left-hander in Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Normal CornBelters in the second game of a Prospect League doubleheader at Community Field.

Normal won the first game, 6-3.

Sagedahl pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk, but didn’t get the decision as the Bees (16-15 overall, 1-1 second half) scored both of their runs in the sixth innings.

Still, it was an important outing for Sagedahl, who pitched just 2 1/3 innings at Dallas Baptist this season. He had an 0-1 record with a 10.39 earned run average in three starts with the Bees, allowing 17 hits in 8 2/3 innings.

“It was very big for the confidence, especially struggling here and there the first couple of outings,” said Sagedahl, who pitched for two seasons at Southeastern Community College. “But basically, it was getting back to normal, and hopefully continuing like this the rest of the year.”

“He kept them off-balance, literally, through the five innings he was out there,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “They really didn’t get good swings off him at all. He had a ton of swing-and-misses.”

Avery Owesu Asiedu had the only hits off Sagedahl, a double in the second inning and a single in the fourth. Sagedahl retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced.

“He really attacked hitters more,” McClure said. “He got all three pitches for strikes. I think he had good run on his fastball away from hitters, and he was able to go (inside). When we called pitches in, he was able to go inside. He just pitched a really good ball game. I take my hat off to him.”

Lincoln Riley’s triple on a fly ball down the left-field line opened the sixth for the Bees. Reid Halfacre then singled to right field to bring in Riley. Mason Land’s bases-loaded ground out scored Halfacre with the other run.

Garrett Langrell (5-0) got the win for the Bees, striking out four in the last two innings.

Bees reliever Garrett Langrell tags out Normal’s Billy Gerlott, who was trying to score from second base on a passed ball. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

Normal’s best scoring chance came in the sixth, when Billy Gerlott tried to score from second base on a passed ball. But catcher Chase Honeycutt made a perfect throw to Langrell covering the plate, and Gerlott was tagged out.

Normal (15-13, 1-1), which edged the Bees for the first-half title in the Great River Division by a half-game, had 11 hits in the first game, nine of which were singles.

Taylor Bruninga (3-0) was the winning pitcher. Simon Gregersen (1-3) took the loss.

ON DECK: The Bees play host to Clinton to start a two-game series on Friday.

NOTES: Bees catcher Jackson Jones got his league-leading 13th double to drive in a run in the first game. … Riley was 3-for-6 in the doubleheader, and made a diving catch on Alex Steinbach’s fly ball to center field for the second out in the fourth inning of the second game. Riley has a six-game hitting streak, hitting .375 in that stretch. … Normal assistant coach Adam Donachie played for the Bees in 2004 when they were affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

Top photo: Chas Sagedahl threw five shutout innings in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Normal. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)