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)