BEES 8, RIVER DRAGONS 4: Harris’ Stuff Is Good Enough

By John Bohnenkamp

McLain Harris has been the most consistent starting pitcher on the Burlington Bees’ staff since the beginning of the Prospect League season.

His start on Tuesday night against the Alton River Dragons had a few struggles here and there.

His pitches weren’t his best, manager Gary McClure said. His final line didn’t have a lot of flaws in it, though.

Harris struck out seven and walked one in five innings as the Bees rallied for an 8-4 win.

Harris allowed six hits in five innings, including two solo home runs. But three of his last four strikeouts were on called third strikes, completing an 84-pitch (58 strikes) up-and-down tour through the Alton lineup.

“He didn’t have his best stuff at all tonight,” McClure said. “Probably the worst game he’s pitched all year, and I don’t mean it to say it was a bad game, because he battled with not his best stuff, not his best fastball. Kept us in the ballgame.”

Harris (3-1) is sixth in the league with a 2.80 earned run average and is tied for second with 41 strikeouts. This outing tied with a June 16 start at Lafayette for his shortest work of the season.

Harris walked Blake Burris in an 11-pitch at-bat to open the game. Burris stole second and third, and scored on Josh Johnson’s single. Alton’s other runs came on solo home runs by Johnson and David Harris.

McLain Harris struck out three in the fifth, and when he struck out Brady Mutz on a called third strike to end the fifth, his night was complete.

The Bees then roared back in the bottom of the inning, trailing 3-1. Ben Nippolt scored on a wild pitch, and then Zane Zielinski singled in Nathan Ebersole to tie the game. Jackson Jones then hit a home run to center field to put the Bees up, 5-3.

“What a shot by Jones,” McClure said. “That was halfway up the batter’s eye.”

Austin Simpson scored on a wild pitch in the sixth for a 6-3 lead, then the Bees closed the scored on RBI doubles by Jones and Kevin Santiago in the seventh.

The Bees had seven hits, five over the last four innings.

“We got guys on, and we were able to get big hits in situations, and strung them together when we got opportunities with guys on base,” McClure said. “That’s what wins games. Big hits win games.”

Brady McLean struck out four in two innings of relief for the Bees, then Garrett Langrell closed the game with two shutout innings.

Photo: Zane Zielinski (right) greets Jackson Jones after his two-run home run in the fifth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: Wissinger Embraces The Closer’s Mentality

By John Bohnenkamp

It seems, to Reece Wissinger, as if it takes forever for him to get out on the pitcher’s mound.

He’ll get there, especially if it’s a close game, when he’s needed to quell a rally, or get the final outs.

It’s the closer’s mentality.

It’s something Wissinger, a right-handed reliever out of the Burlington Bees’ bullpen, has embraced, and it shows.

Wissinger has struck out 29 in 13 innings this season, becoming one of the best relievers in the Prospect League.

It’s a role, Bees manager Gary McClure said, that is perfect for Wissinger.

“It’s one thing to have the physical skills,” McClure said. “But he’s got the mentality.”

Opposing hitters are batting .184 against Wissinger, who is 3-0 with one save. He’s walked just two hitters, while allowing nine hits. Wissinger hadn’t given up an earned run until he gave up three in 3 1/3 innings — his longest outing of the year — in a 4-3 loss to the Cape Catfish on Saturday night.

“He throws 93-94, but he’s got something in the last 10 feet — the ball jumps,” McClure said. “It’s more like he throws 96, 97, something like that. It’s like, ‘Here’s the fastball. Hit it.’ He does it day in and day out.

“I hate to say anybody is automatic, but he’s as close as you get. He’s averaging probably over two strikeouts an inning. If you do that, it’s tough to get beat.”

Getting in the game, though, is a countdown for Wissinger that starts as soon as the game begins.

“The game slows down so much,” he said. “It seems like it takes forever for me to go out on the mound. Whenever I get ready, it feels like it takes an hour for me to get out there on the mound.

“I’m usually always moving. I can’t sit still. I’m always jittery. I’m moving back and forth, from the ‘pen to the dugout. I’m always sitting down there. I’ve got a bunch of exercises I can do while I’m sitting there. I watch the game, and keep stretching to keep loose.”

Once Wissinger is in the game, though, the mound feels like home. And in many ways, it is — he’s a graduate of Burlington High School, attends Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, and grew up watching the Bees in Class A Midwest League games at Community Field.

“Oh, I love it,” Wissinger said. “For that last pitch, everyone stands up and yells. It’s the feeling I’ve never had before. Especially doing it here, with the Burlington Bees, it’s amazing.”

He heard one of the loudest crowds of the season during his appearance in Friday’s 12-7 win over Springfield. The Sliders had taken a 7-6 lead in the seventh and had the bases loaded with no outs when Wissinger came into the game. Wissinger struck out the next three hitters on 12 pitches, then the Bees scored six runs in the bottom of the inning for the win in the rain-shortened game.

That concluded a two-game stretch in which Wissinger struck out eight in 2 2/3 innings while allowing just one hit.

“Wissinger is a big-time arm,” McClure said. “He pounds the zone every time out. He’s always ahead of hitters.

“He’s got the perfect mentality for a closer. Doesn’t say a whole lot, doesn’t do a whole lot. When it’s time for him to go down to the bullpen, he heads down there, gets himself ready in a business-like manner, and he goes out and does the job.”

Wissinger struck out 38 in 21 innings for SCC this season, going 2-0 with eight saves and a 0.43 earned run average.

“I saw him pitch at SCC last season a little bit,” McClure said. “I really liked his arm. And then this year, after I knew he was coming, I saw him three or four times. He did what he does now. He’s starting to throw harder. And he just keeps developing, body-wise. He keeps getting bigger and bigger. He’s (6-foot-5) now, he’s got the tools to do what he does. And he’s got the mentality, most of all.”

The summer has been educational for Wissinger. It’s felt like a professional atmosphere, with the travel and the time to work.

“It’s been great. I love it here. It’s better than going to school. Just play baseball,” Wissinger said. “ I’ve surprised myself a lot. I’ve learned a lot about growing up.

“This helps me a lot. This is what pros do every day. You’re on your own. It’s your career, you do what you need.”

It’s the closer’s mentality that Wissinger has learned to enjoy.

“At first, it was nerve-wracking,” he said. “Now I love it. It feels awesome, especially being a hometown kid. It feels awesome going out there and winning a game. There’s nothing better.”

Photo: Burlington Bees reliever Reece Wissinger has struck out 29 batters in 13 innings this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 12, SLIDERS 7: Wissinger Provides The Lightning In Win

By John Bohnenkamp

Reece Wissinger’s 12 pitches saved a game that was slipping away on a rainy night at Community Field.

The Burlington Bees rode that momentum to a six-run seventh inning that ended right before lightning and a downpour finished the night.

The 12-7 win over the Springfield Sliders on Friday night snapped a two-game losing stretch for the Bees, who stayed 1 1/2 games behind Normal in the Prospect League’s Great River Division.

Ben Nippolt’s two-run bases-loaded double snapped a 7-all tie, then the Bees added three more runs.

It had been raining for most of the seventh inning, and after the inning ended the umpires were alerted of lightning from an approaching storm in the area. Both teams left the field and the grandstands were cleared of fans. The torrential rain that followed brought a quick end.

The Bees had lost back-to-back games with the Cape Catfish on Wednesday and Thursday, and will face them in Cape Girardeau, Mo., this weekend. Burlington let a 6-1 lead get away in this one, but the rally ended the gloom.

“It’s huge, especially going on the road the next couple of days,” said Bees assistant coach Owen Oreskovich, who filled in for manager Gary McClure for the second consecutive night as McClure finished his two-game suspension from the league for his ejection from Wednesday’s game.

Bees starting pitcher Simon Gregersen loaded the bases to start the seventh on two singles sandwiched around an error and left with the Bees up 6-3. Reliever Garrett Langrell came in as the rain began, and allowed four consecutive baserunners — two walks, a hit batsmen and a single — as Springfield scored three more runs for a 7-6 lead.

“You could tell, it seemed like he couldn’t get a grip on the ball,” Oreskovich said.

Wissinger (3-0), a Burlington High School graduate who played this season at Southeastern Community College, came into the game with the bases loaded and struck out Jordan Gunter, Luke Malinger and Eric Martin to end the inning.

“Oh, he was huge,” Oreskovich said. “Three straight strikeouts after we were struggling, that was just big-time. We needed that after some momentum there, to get us going with the bats.”

Austin Simpson led off the seventh with a single, then Marcos Sanchez was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Zane Zielinski placed a bunt down the first-base line, beating the throw to first to load the bases.

“Big bunt from Zane,” Oreskovich said. “That was big. Perfect bunt.”

Chase Honeycutt walked to bring in Simpson, then Nippolt pounded a double to right field to score Sanchez and Zielinski. Lincoln Riley’s sacrifice fly brought in another run, then Jackson Jones closed the scoring with a two-run single.

Photo: Burlington Bees reliever Reece Wissinger shut down Springfield in the seventh inning of Friday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

CATFISH 10, BEES 5: Lightning Finally Strikes Against Cape Starter, But It’s Not Enough

By John Bohnenkamp

Jalen Borders’ night was full of silence, but time and pitches were running out.

The Cape Catfish starting pitcher was closing in on the Prospect League’s 95-pitch limit with one out in the seventh inning of Thursday’s game against the Burlington Bees at Community Field.

The last hitter Borders faced, Mason Land, finally got to him for the Bees’ first hit of the night.

The no-hitter gone, and the pitch tank empty, Borders left the game.

And the Bees nearly rallied.

Burlington struck for four runs in the seventh inning and had the tying run at the plate, but couldn’t finish the rally in a 10-5 loss in a game delayed almost an hour because of lightning in the area.

The Bees (12-12) fell 1 1/2 games behind the Normal CornBelters in the Great River Division.

The Catfish (14-11) scored five runs off Bees starting pitcher Chas Sagedahl in the first inning and added two in the second, and with Borders keeping Burlington hitters off the bases other than two walks and an error, it looked like there wouldn’t be much of a threat other than the thunderstorms approaching.

But Burlington’s offense awakened after Land’s hit. Reliever Landen Comer struck out Zane Zielinski for the second out of the inning, but Parker Rowland singled, Austin Simpson walked, and then Land scored on Ben Nippolt’s fielder’s choice.

The Bees added three more runs in the inning on Marcos Sanchez’s bases-loaded walk and Reid Halfacre’s two-run single, but with runners on first and second Jackson Jones grounded out to end the inning.

The game was stopped at that point because of lightning, but resumed almost an hour later as more flashes lit up the sky.

The Catfish scored three runs in the eighth to break open the game, then the Bees added a run in the ninth on Halfacre’s ground out that scored pinch runner Brady Jurgella.

SITTING IT OUT: Bees manager Gary McClure was suspended by the league for the game after his ejection from Wednesday’s game.

Assistant coach Owen Oreskovich was in charge of the team.

UP NEXT: The Bees play host to Springfield in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. game.

Photo: Mason Land gets the Burlington Bees’ first hit of the game in the seventh inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

CATFISH 7, BEES 5: It’s A Traffic Jam That Couldn’t Be Cleared

By John Bohnenkamp

There were a lot of opportunities for the Burlington Bees to clear the traffic jam on the bases Wednesday night.

The big hits came too late.

The Bees left 15 baserunners — 13 in the first five innings — in a 7-5 loss to the Cape Catfish in a Prospect League game at Community Field.

Burlington (12-11) fell to a half-game behind the Normal CornBelters in the West-Great River Division.

The Bees left the bases loaded in the first, second and fifth innings, and runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings.

“You just shoot yourself in the foot when you do that,” Bees manager Gary McClure said.

The Catfish (13-11) scored five runs in the sixth inning, helped by two Burlington errors, then held on as the Bees got a two-run home run from Kevin Santiago in the sixth and a run-scoring double from Mason Land in the seventh.

McClure would have taken anything, a hit or a productive out, in those early innings.

The two errors in the sixth — Mason Land threw wildly trying to turn a double play, then Austin Simpson had a throwing error on a play at first — proved costly as well.

“We had the double-play ball, and then we threw the ball away at first,” McClure said. “We didn’t make two plays in a row and it killed us. You’ve got to make the plays. This is not Little League, you’ve got to make the routine plays. If you don’t turn the double play, it haunts you every time.

“We beat ourselves defensively is what we did. And we weren’t productive with guys in scoring position early in the ballgame.”

Andrew Long (0-2) was the losing pitcher, charged with four runs over five innings.

“He pitched well enough — he should have had a big lead when he left the game,” McClure said. “Long threw very well, was very efficient, almost got through six innings.”

Chad Donze (1-1) was credited with the win in relief.

EJECTION: McClure was ejected in the ninth inning by plate umpire Josh Barnes after an 0-1 pitch from reliever Grady Gorgen to Cape’s Andrew Stone was called a ball.

McClure came out of the dugout to argue with Barnes, then after he was ejected McClure covered home plate in dirt as the crowd cheered.

“I’d had enough at that point, for sure,” McClure said. “It wasn’t the greatest game called behind the plate.”

TOP OF THE ORDER PRODUCTION: Bees leadoff man Reid Halfacre had three hits and scored twice. Land also reached base three times.

UP NEXT: The Bees and Catfish conclude their two-game series with a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday. Bees starter Chas Sagedahl (0-0) will face Cape’s Jalen Borders (1-2).

Photo: Burlington’s Marcos Sanchez bunts for a hit in the third inning of Wednesday’s game against the Cape Catfish. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: A Few Weeks Of Work Helps Jones

By John Bohnenkamp

Jackson Jones wasn’t happy with his 2021 season at Young Harris College in Georgia.

Jones batted .281 with nine home runs, but with some time off before coming to play in the Prospect League with the Burlington Bees, Jones went home to work on hitting with his father, George.

The work has paid off.

Jones, coming off a 4-for-5 game in Sunday’s 13-5 win over Quincy at Community Field, is batting .357 with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in. He has hit in 11 of his last 12 games, batting .449 over that stretch.

“I had a few weeks off to work on my swing a little bit,” Jones said. “Working on that helped me get into a groove. I’m seeing the ball a lot better and I think that’s the big thing.”

Jones is second in the league in home runs with seven, leads the league with nine doubles, and is fifth in slugging percentage at .714. He has a 1.147 OPS.

“He’s just a really, really good hitter,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He just stays within all of the time. He’s always got a plan, got a great swing. He’s just a very mature hitter — he gets good pitches to hit and he puts good swings on them.”

Jones didn’t have a place to play this summer before his coach, Stephen Waggener, told him about Burlington and the Prospect League.

“He said this was a good opportunity to play,” said Jones, who hit .209 with the Macon Bacon in the Coastal Plain League in 2018. “I was happy to jump at the chance to do it.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s always a good time getting to know new guys. Baseball teams are always like another family. When you get to know another group of guys like this, it’s kind of like having a second family.”

Jones, a Marietta, Georgia native, started slowly, with just one hit in his first 10 at-bats. Since then, he has hits in 16 of his last 18 games.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of pressure sometimes, because you want it to continue, and obviously last night that didn’t happen. But it’s a good feeling being able to help your team. When you’re hot like that, you’re helping your team. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of pressure, you feel like you have to perform.”

Jones went 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the O’Fallon Hoots at Community Field, snapping a 10-game hitting streak.

He bounced back on Sunday, with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs.

The work in May, after the end of the college season, has helped.

“Whenever I’m not at school, I go hit with my dad,” Jones said. “He helps me out a lot. Pretty much everything I know about baseball I learned from him. He’s been my coach ever since I started playing. Whenever I get the chance to work with him, I do it. He’s helped me out a lot.”

Jones’ primary position is catcher, but he has also played left field, right field, and first base for the Bees.

He smiled when he was reminded that he pitched 5 1/3 innings as a freshman at Young Harris.

“That was interesting,” Jones said.

Jones appreciates getting a chance to play in Burlington.

“The facility here is amazing,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the nicest facilities I’ve been able to play in. It was definitely an attraction to playing here.”

Jones has one season left at Young Harris.

“I really just hope I can have success here, and then have that carry over into the college season,” Jones said. “I didn’t have as much success as I wanted to this year, so I’m hoping the success can carry over.”

THE WEEK AHEAD

Tuesday: At Quincy. The Bees face the Gems on the road after Sunday’s win. Quincy has won seven of its last 10 games, and is only 1 1/2 games behind the Bees and Normal in the Great River Division standings.

Wednesday-Thursday: Cape. The Bees return home for a two-game series against the Cape Catfish. The Catfish have won seven of their last 10 games and are 2 1/2 games out in the Prairie Land Division standings.

Friday: Springfield. The Bees see the Sliders for the second time this season. Springfield is a half-game out of first place in the Prairie Land Division.

Saturday-Sunday: At Cape. The Bees close the week with a two-game series on the road with the Catfish.

Photo: Jackson Jones rounds the bases after his home run against Clinton earlier this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 13, GEMS 5: Noisy Eighth Inning Caps Offensive Outburst

By John Bohnenkamp

There was some disappointment at Community Field when Marcos Sanchez’s fly ball fell into the glove of Quincy right fielder Nick Iannantone just short of the wall.

Three home runs in a noisy eighth inning led to some high expectations.

The solo homers from Jackson Jones, Kevin Santiago and Mason Land capped the Burlington Bees’ 13-5 win over the Gems on Sunday at Community Field.

The Bees had 16 hits less than 24 hours after being shut out in a loss to O’Fallon.

“We took a day off, I guess,” Bees manager Gary McClure said, laughing. “But we really swung (the bats) tonight.”

All but one of the Bees’ runs came in their final four offensive innings, nine after they fell behind 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Sanchez’s solo home run in the sixth tied the game, then the Bees added three runs on Reid Halfacre’s RBI double and Jones’ two-run single.

Nathan Ebersole and Ben Nippolt drove in runs in the seventh, then the home-run eruption followed in the eighth.

“When you add runs, you usually win,” McClure said.

Garrett Langrell (4-0) was the winning pitcher. Jake Stipp (1-2) took the loss.

JONES REBOUNDS: Jones, who had a 10-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, was 4-for-5 with five RBIs. He had two doubles to go with his home run, and boosted his batting average to .357.

PITCHING: Bees starter Garrett Moltzan allowed five hits over 5 1/3 innings. Langrell, who was charged with a run in the sixth, pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings. Reece Wissinger pitched a scoreless ninth.

“We got good starting pitching and then the relievers closed the door,” McClure said.

DEFENSIVE GEMS: Bees center fielder Lincoln Riley made a diving catch on Jayce Maag’s short fly ball to lead off the seventh inning.

“I thought Lincoln Riley made a great catch,” McClure said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to get there.”

Photo: Jackson Jones (left), Kevin Santiago (center) and Mason Land hit home runs in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

HOOTS 3, BEES 0: Bases Are Busy, But The Line Doesn’t Move

By John Bohnenkamp

Getting runners on base wasn’t a problem for the Burlington Bees.

Getting them to advance was a different thing.

The Bees had baserunners in seven innings, but lost 3-0 to the O’Fallon Hoots in Saturday’s Prospect League game at Community Field.

Burlington (10-10) stayed in a first-place tie with the Normal CornBelters in the Great River Division.

The Bees had six hits and 12 baserunners, but only one baserunner got to third base against O’Fallon pitchers Tyler Denu and Anthony Klein.

“We struggled to get a guy to second, to be honest,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “We just couldn’t string anything together.”

Denu (1-0) threw 80 pitches in seven innings, allowing six hits while striking out three. Anthony Klein hit three batters in the last two innings, but the Bees couldn’t come up with any hits.

“(Denu) threw a great game,” McClure said. “He minimized his pitch count, threw really well. He obviously kept our guys off-balance all night.”

All of the Bees’ hits were singles. Austin Simpson had two hits.

The Hoots got two runs in the first off Bees starter Jalen Evans (1-1) on singles by Elias Stevens and JT Mabry. Jamie Young scored on a fielder’s choice in the fourth for O’Fallon’s other run.

“If you look through the whole game, they didn’t hit one ball on the barrel,” McClure said. “Broken bats, or off the end of the bats. Bloopers. But that’s baseball.”

RELIEF: Burlington’s Simon Gregersen pitched four scoreless innings in relief. He threw 47 pitches, 33 for strikes.

STREAKS: Burlington’s Jackson Jones had his 10-game hitting streak snapped. Jones was hitting .450 in the streak. … Bees shortstop Mason Land extended his hitting streak to four games. 

FAMILY TREE: Mabry is the son of former Major League Baseball player John Mabry.

DEFENSIVE GEMS: Gregersen got some help in the seventh inning. Clayton Stephens led off with a single, then Luke Vinson hit a line drive that Land lunged to catch. Land got up and threw out Vinson had first to complete the double play. Nick Hofmann then doubled, but Gregersen picked him off to end the inning.

UP NEXT: The Bees play host to the Quincy Gems on Sunday in a 2 p.m. game.

Photo: Burlington Bees first baseman Austin Simpson singles in the fourth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

THE MONDAY HIVE: Simpson Back On A Familiar Field

By John Bohnenkamp

Austin Simpson lost his 2020 season at Southeastern Community College to the COVID-19 pandemic, and missed most of the second half of this season after suffering a facial injury.

His work over the summer, though, has made a difference.

Simpson leads the Burlington Bees in hitting at .392, ranking 11th among Prospect League hitters. He has 20 hits in 14 games, tied for seventh in the league.

“I’ve just tried to stay consistent, doing what I do,” said the first baseman, who has two home runs and 13 runs batted in while posting a 1.044 OPS.

Simpson hit .317 with SCC in 34 games this season, hitting seven home runs and driving in 39 runs. But Simpson suffered a facial injury when he was hit by a ground ball during batting practice before an April 14 doubleheader at Marshalltown. The injury required surgery and kept him out for the rest of the junior college season.

“Oh, I hated it,” he said. “Couldn’t stand watching and not being out there.”

Simpson’s hitting wasn’t affected by the time off. He had six hits in his first 13 at-bats to open the season, and has had a six-game hitting streak this season in which he hit .455. That streak was snapped with an 0-for-3 game in Saturday’s loss at O’Fallon, but in Sunday’s 12-2 win over Clinton at Community Field Simpson reached base in all five plate appearances, going 3-for-3.

“Austin is just a very, very good hitter,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He hits for average, and he hits for power, and not a lot of guys do that. He gets on base, people have to be careful how to pitch him. He’s a great hitter.”

This is Simpson’s second season in a summer wood-bat league — he played last summer in the Kernels Collegiate League in Normal, Ill. That season was important, since Simpson’s first year at SCC was canceled because of the pandemic.

“It was hard,” Simpson said of missing the spring season. “You work for something the whole school year, and then to see it taken away was difficult.”

Simpson grew up in nearby Fairfield, graduating in 2019 from Fairfield High School. He grew up watching the Bees when the team played in the Class A Midwest League.

“It’s close to home. And I grew up watching the team,” he said. “So it’s cool to be a part of it.”

Playing in the Prospect League means long bus trips. The Bees got back from O’Fallon early Sunday morning, but were back in the batting cages for work at noon.

“It’s what we do,” Simpson said. “You can’t change it or do anything about it. It makes you grow up a little bit.”

Simpson will play at Quincy University next season.

“They’ve got a really good program, and they develop players,” he said. “When I went there and took my visit, it felt like I was home.”

Simpson knows what this season can mean to him.

“I just want to be better than I was when I got here,” he said. “Be an elite player.”

BY THE NUMBERS

• Jackson Jones is on a seven-game hitting streak. Jones, who is hitting .333 with a 1.094 OPS, is batting .429 during the streak. He has four home runs in the last six games. Jones is tied for third in the league with five home runs, and is tied for third with six doubles.

• Kevin Santiago has a six-game hitting streak. He is batting .360 in the streak with eight runs batted in. Santiago is tied for four in the league with 19 RBIs.

• Pitcher McLain Harris is third in the league with 24 strikeouts.

• Reliever Garrett Langrell is tied for league lead in wins with three.

THE WEEK AHEAD

• At Lafayette, Wednesday and Thursday. The Bees go into the Eastern Conference for two games against the Aviators, who lead the Wabash River Division at 12-4. Lafayette’s Tanner Craig is second in the league in hitting at .462, and leads the league with six home runs. Pitcher Chase Stratton is seventh in the league with a 1.88 ERA.

• At Normal, Friday (doubleheader). The Cornbelters (7-8) are 1 1/2 games behind the Bees in the Great River Division. Catcher Eddie Niemann is hitting .389 for the Cornbelters.

• O’Fallon, Saturday. The Bees come home for a game against the Hoots (9-5). Outfielder Brett Johnson leads the Hoots with a .379 average.

• Quincy, Sunday. It’s the first appearance of the Gems (5-10) at Community Field. 

Photo: Burlington Bees first baseman Austin Simpson catches a foul popup in Sunday’s game against Clinton at Community Field. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

BEES 12, LUMBERKINGS 2: Evans, Relievers Combine For One-Hitter

By John Bohnenkamp

Jalen Evans hadn’t pitched in more than a month.

It didn’t seem like much of a problem.

Evans and relievers K.J. Baker and Jackson Gray combined on a one-hitter as the Burlington Bees won, 12-2, over the Clinton LumberKings in Sunday’s game at Community Field.

The Bees (9-7) took a one-game lead in the Prospect League’s West-Great River Division after a win in a game decided by the 10-run rule in the eighth inning.

Evans threw 49 innings in 15 appearances at Texas Wesleyan University this season, with a 4-1 record and a 3.12 earned run average.

Getting some time off helped.

“Just felt good,” said Evans, who joined the team on Friday. “Just tried to get a feel today.”

Evans struck out the first two hitters he faced and faced the minimum in the first three innings.

“He’s got a great arm,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “He hadn’t pitched in a few weeks, but he commanded it pretty good.”

“Everything felt good,” Evans said. “Fastball felt good. Could work on the command a little bit more. But we’ll get there. Knowing what’s wrong, that’s the first thing. Then we can make adjustments.”

Evans’ only trouble came in the fourth, when he surrendered a two-run home run to Luke Ira. He hit Kyle Lehmann with a pitch with two outs and then walked Dominic Milano, but struck out Jay Beshears to end the inning.

Evans gave up a leadoff walk to Adam Weed in the fifth inning, but retired the next three hitters to end his day.

“He threw all of his pitches for strikes,” McClure said. “He did a good job of getting ahead of all of the hitters, especially the first four innings. It was big for us for him to get through the fifth.”

Baker walked one and struck out three in two innings. Jackson Gray did not allow a hit in his lone inning of work, striking out one.

“A lot of these guys have a lot of potential,” Evans said of the Bees’ pitching staff. “They just need the reps. We’ll get that this summer. It’s only going to get better.”

The Bees built a 7-0 lead through the first two innings, sending nine batters to the plate in both innings. They scored four runs in the seventh inning without a hit, taking advantage of six walks and a hit batter. Jackson Jones’ home run to lead off the eighth inning ended the game.

Bees first baseman Austin Simpson reached base in all five plate appearances, going 3-for-3. Kevin Santiago had a home run and drove in four runs.

The Bees had 13 hits.

“This offense,” Evans said, “is really dynamic.”

Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Jalen Evans and two relievers combined on a one-hitter in Sunday’s win over the Clinton LumberKings. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)