A unique double play in the bottom of the seventh tipped momentum back Clinton’s way and Mickey Wiswall singled home the first of three runs in the top of the eighth, giving the LumberKings a 5-2 win over the Burlington Bees in Midwest League baseball Monday night at Community Field.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, LumberKings right-hander Matt Bischoff allowed a leadoff double to Nino Leyja and issued a wild pitch to that put Leyja at third with no outs. Bischoff battled back to strike out Tyreace House, then induced a wild inning-ending double play off the bat of Beau Taylor. Taylor chopped the ball to drawn-in third baseman Carlos Ramirez, who started a rundown that Leyja stayed in to advance Taylor to second. After a play scored 5-2-6-2-5-1-5 finally retired Leyja, Ramirez made a perfect throw back to second to get Taylor, who rounded the bag too far.
Having denied the Bees a chance at the go-ahead run, the LumberKings then put together a rally in the top of the eighth against right-hander T.J. Walz.
Mike McGee drew the last of his three walks with one out and sprinted to third on Stefen Romero’s single into right-center. Wiswall fell behind 0-2 before lining a single into right-center, scoring McGee for a 3-2 lead. Tim Morris followed with a single to right-center that scored Romero, and Kalian Sams beat out a potential inning-ending double play to reach on a fielder’s choice, scoring Wiswall.
With a sudden three-run cushion, Bischoff (3-2) retired six of the next seven batters he faced to end the game. He allowed a one-out double to Josh Whitaker in the eighth but locked up Wade Kirkland on a called strike three to strand him.
The LumberKings took a 1-0 lead in the second inning as Romero lifted an opposite-field home run to right. The ball bounced off the top of the high wall and went over, giving Romero his 15th homer of the season and 50th RBI.
The Bees quickly answered with a run off left-hander Anthony Fernandez. House reached on an infield single and took second as Romero’s throw to first was wide of Morris. Taylor followed with a single to left, scoring House to tie the game at 1-1.
A two-out, two-strike single to center by Sams plated McGee in the fourth to put Clinton back ahead 2-1, but Fernandez yielded three hits in the bottom of the fourth, including a game-tying flare single by Royce Consigli.
Fernandez came out with the score tied 2-2 after six innings but still earned his fourth straight quality start (and eighth overall) with two runs, one earned, on six hits with four strikeouts.
Wiswall finished 2 for 4 with his 45th RBI, while Romero went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to a team-best 13 games.
With both Kane County and Beloit washed out, the LumberKings moved within 2 1⁄2 games of the Cougars for the top playoff spot in the West and extended their edge on the Snappers to 3 1⁄2 games for the wild-card spot in the playoffs.
The LumberKings (23-20) conclude the four-game series with the Bees (14-29) at 6:30 tonight before returning home Wednesday to start a three-game homestand. Left-hander Roenis Elias (1-0, 0.00 ERA) makes his second start for Clinton as Burlington counters with right-hander Jose Macias (4-3, 5.01).