You can do a lot of things in five hours and 45 minutes: fly nonstop from JFK to LAX. Drive from St. Louis to Milwaukee. Watch most of the first two films of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Burlington Bees and Fort Wayne TinCaps played a baseball game in five hours and 45 minutes -- one baseball game.
The Bees knocked off the TinCaps, 7-5, in 18 innings Wednesday afternoon in a game that started a little after 11 a.m. ET and finished just before 5 p.m. The teams combined for 31 hits, eight errors and 14 stolen bases while leaving 37 men on base in the longest game in Fort Wayne's 22-year history.
Put another way, Burlington was scheduled to bus it to Cleveland, where it would take on the nearby Lake County Captains in an upcoming series, by 6 p.m. They did not make it on time.
Mark Shannon, who started the game in center field, recorded his first professional win after allowing two earned runs on five hits over three innings. Ryan Dalton, the Bees' starting first baseman, nailed down his first career save with a hitless 18th.
Burlington took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but TinCaps third baseman Dustin Peterson singled home Ronnie Richardson to knot it up. Neither side scored again for another eight innings.
"It really started to sink in around the 11th, 12th, 13th innings," Dalton said. "You could kind of feel each offense was just going through the motions as the game progressed. All you could hope to do was put some good swings, get a run across and end it."
With six pitchers already used and the Bees bullpen empty, Burlington manager Bill Richardson turned to Shannon -- who went 4-2 with a 4.99 ERA in nine appearances for UNLV as a senior last year -- in the 15th. The left-hander tossed a scoreless frame, then singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the 16th. One out away from the win, Shannon served up a single to Ronnie Richardson that was just missed by diving right fielder Ranyelmy Mendoza and a game-tying double to Dustin Peterson that was lost in the sun by Mendoza.
"I was kinda struggling with my fastball," Shannon said in jest. "So I went to my curveball a couple of times when I needed it. That was actually my favorite pitch back in college. But that's all it was, fastball and curveball. ... I wasn't trying to look at the [radar] gun though."
The teams traded runs again in the 17th before Shannon decided three innings was enough for his out-of-commission arm.
"It was pretty much, 'Hey, you doing all right?' after each inning," the 23-year-old said. "And I kept saying, 'Yeah, I'm fine.' After the third one though, I think that was enough."
Luckily for Burlington, Fort Wayne also had also run out of pitchers by the 18th and was forced to use Richardson on the mound. The Bees took advantage as Mendoza drove in Exicardo Cayones with a one-out sacrifice fly and Dalton produced an insurance run in with a two-out single.
As it turned out, Dalton was helping his own cause. The first baseman, who last pitched as a junior in high school in 2008, worked around two walks in a scoreless inning to earn the save.
"I put on a little ice on my shoulder just as a kind of a joke for the pitchers," Dalton said. "But I'll tell you one thing, I have a newfound respect for those guys. It is tough to have to be ready to go out to the mound and do this every day. It's definitely tough."
Despite the win and the save, Shannon and Dalton aren't expecting a career change anytime soon. After Wednesday's marathon, however, they might be more prepared for the next emergency.
"I might have to throw a bullpen [session]," Shannon joked.
Despite taking the loss, Richardson (0-1) went 3-for-5 with four walks and three runs scored.
Mendoza had two hits, including his second homer of the season, and two RBIs.