Burlington passes Illinois Valley to return to victory lane
Strong pitches and timely hitting put the Burlington Bees back on the winning streak Wednesday night at Community Field.
Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp took the lead early on, but Zane Zielinski’s three-run homerun in the sixth inning guided the Bees to a 7-5 victory.
The Bees improved to 20-20 overall and 5-6 in the second half. They remained in fourth place in the Great River Division, .007 behind third place Clinton (6-7) and a game and a half behind leader Quincy (8-6).
Two local pitchers were in the decision. Jack Gray (2-1), a former Notre Dame High School player, took the win with 2 2/3 innings relief. Former Burlington High School and Southeastern Community College pitcher Reece Wissinger threw the last four outs and got his third save.
Bees right-hander McLain Harris pitched the first five innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and two walks. Two unearned runs also scored while on the mound. He fanned seven shrimp with a pistol.
“Harris threw the ball really well,” Bees manager Gary McClure said. “We’ve given up at least two unearned runs. He gives us a chance every time he comes out. I mean, I think we’re going to win every time he’s on the mound. Unfortunately, we’re slapping in. the ball when it’s been on the mound lately, but it’s doing a good job.
“Gray was the key in the middle there,” McClure said. “He took us to Wissinger with just four strikeouts to make. That’s what we were hoping for. If we could narrow it down to four strikeouts, we’d be pretty good. Gray fought there. Good job. “
Gray allowed a run on a hit and a walk in 2 2/3 innings. He stirred one up. Wissinger ceded a single RBI to Benji Rios, the first hitter he faced, then retired four times in a row to save the win. He took out two.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Bees’ Austin Simpson started with a single bloop in the left center. One out later, Marcos Sanchez doubled down in the middle, pushing Simpson to third.
Zielinski, the Bees’ number 9 hitter, hit a home run down center left to give Burlington a 6-4 lead. The bees would no longer hang around.
“I was really happy to see this for Z,” McClure said. “He had a big home run. Obviously he turned the game around. It was a big blow for the team. It was a big blow for him. He struggled a bit. And I thought he had good shots at his next at bat even though he took off (at second base). He had a good swing on the ball. It was important for our team, obviously. It gave us a two point lead. It was good for him too. ”
It was Zielinski’s second home circuit of the season.
Illinois Valley took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double from Blake Atkins and an RBI single from Sam Link.
Burlington halved the second on Kevin Santiago’s solo tour.
Illinois Valley took a 4-1 lead with two unearned runs in the third. Shrimp scored a walk, a Link single and a Santiago pitch error from third.
The Bees took the lead in the sixth and Illinois Valley struck once in the eighth on a walk and two singles. The Bees added their last point at the end of the eighth on Ben Nippolt’s RBI double.
Link led all batters with a 3-for-4 exit. Tyler Conkilin (0-1) took the loss in relief.
The Bees are trying to regain momentum after three rain showers last week.
“It hurt us,” McClure said. “You know a few days off is good, but when you play every day and all of a sudden you have three long days that these guys have nothing to do. the cage, but we’ve got I couldn’t be on the pitch. It affects your pace a bit, that’s for sure. “
BUZZ: Three bees are among the league leaders in stats until Tuesday. Jackson Jones is the league leader in home runs at 16 and second in RBI at 45. Garrett Langrell is tied for second in pitching wins with five. McLain Harris is third in strikeouts at 55 and fourth in earned runs average at 2.96.
ON THE BRIDGE: The Bees play Clinton on Thursday night, then return to Community Field on Friday for a 5 p.m. double show with the Normal CornBelters. Fireworks will follow. On Saturday, the Bees play the Gems at Quincy. On Sunday, Quincy heads to Burlington for a 2 p.m. game at Community Field.