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)
- 11-20 first half
- 9-19 second half
- 15-15 home
- 5-24 road
- 8-6 one-run
Attendance: 29,320 (6th)
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)
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)
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)