It was a tale of two games Friday night at Ashford University Field.
The LumberKings led Burlington 3-1 after five innings, but Burlington outscored Clinton 5-1 over the final four innings to earn a 6-4 win. The Bees scored in each of the last five innings after being shut out for the first four.
“We couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said. “They won the last four innings, and that was pretty much the game. We couldn’t stop them and we couldn’t score.”
The LumberKings certainly had chances in the later innings.
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Clinton started a rally.
Jabari Blash reached on an error and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Daniel Paolini singled, putting runners on the corner with no outs.
The next two batters struck out and then Steven Baron popped out to end the inning.
Burlington added an insurance run in the ninth to go ahead 6-3.
“If we could have scored in the eighth and stopped them in the ninth, then we’d have had a chance to win the ballgame,” Menchaca said.
Clinton also had opportunities in the ninth inning.
Mario Yepez led off the inning with a walk and moved to third on a double by Anthony Phillips. Jamal Austin hit an RBI groundout. But Burlington’s Drew Tyson retired the next two LumberKings to pick up a save.
“It’s youth,” Menchaca said. “We’re a young team. They’ve got to control their emotions and realize the pressure is on the pitcher, not them. With time, we’ll be fine. There’s no sense in panicking.”
Paolini had an up-and-down day. He hit an RBI double in the first inning to give the LumberKings a 1-0 lead. In the eighth inning, Burlington had runners at first and second with one out and the score tied at 3. Burlington’s Chad Lewis reached on an error by Paolini that allowed the Bees to take the lead.
“It’s a routine ball that gets the pitcher out of a jam,” Menchaca said. “He wants to turn that double play just as much as anyone. It’s part of the game. ... I think he was trying to throw the ball before he caught it.”
The LumberKings wasted a good outing by starting pitcher Ambioris Hidalgo. Hidalgo gave up one run on two hits while striking out three in five innings.
“For his first start, I thought he did pretty well,” Menchaca said. “He controlled the strike zone and attacked the hitters.”
Hidalgo’s mistake was to Burlington’s Dusty Robinson, who hit a grand slam in Thursday’s season opener. Menchaca said Hidalgo threw three breaking balls in a row to Robinson, who hit the third one out the park to left field for his second homer of the season.
“Overall, Hidalgo threw the ball decent,” Menchaca said. “He gave us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask for from your starter.”
Despite losing the first two games of the season, Menchaca said there was no cause for concern.
“They’re getting a taste of the league,” he said. “They’re facing older guys, especially against Burlington. It’s a good experience for them. ... All-in-all, it’s a learning experience. We’ll go forward and get better. The wins and losses will take care of themselves.”