Clinton, IA - Lars Huijer struggled through four innings and the Clinton LumberKings (30-34) lost for the seventh time in eight games Wednesday night at Ashford University Field. The visiting Burlington Bees (35-30) grabbed sole possession of the MWL Western Division wild card lead with their 8-6 win over Clinton.
The loss officially eliminated the LumberKings from the first half wild card race.
Unlike Tuesday night's game where the L'Kings scored first, Clinton fell behind immediately and couldn't dig out of a six-run hole.
The Bees scored three runs in both the first and second inning off of Huijer (2-5) who suffered his fourth loss over his past five starts. In the first, the right-hander allowed a single, two doubles, and issued his first of five walks - a career-high. Run-scoring base hits by Eric Aguilera and Exicardo Cayones highlighted the frame, and the two did additional damage in the second and fifth innings.
Aguilera capped off another Bees three-run inning in the second with an RBI single, moments after Mike Fish plated two with a double.
Clinton cut their 6-0 deficit in half with three runs of their own in the third. A two-out, two-run single by Austin Wilson made it 6-2, and the slugger eventually scored after a walk and Bees fielding error.
But Burlington's Cayones provided breathing room for the Bees' bullpen in the fifth. Angel Rosa led off the inning with a single to left and Cayones followed by knocking a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right and Huijer out of the game in the process.
Down 8-3, Clinton went quietly in fifth, sixth, and seventh. But the L'Kings, who erased a 17-1 deficit after five innings just over a month ago in Burlington, didn't back away in the last two innings.
The LumberKings put the first two men on in the eighth, and following Martin Peguero and Corey Simpson strikeouts, center fielder Chantz Mack gave Clinton new life.
The left-handed hitting Mack launched a three-run shot to right, cutting the Bees' lead to two, 8-6.
And in the bottom of the ninth, the LumberKings gave the Bees another scare.
Clinton's Zach Shank drew a four-pitch, leadoff walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. Marcus Littlewood then popped up to third base and Ryan Dalton, who started the game across the diamond at first, dropped the routine popup. But Dalton gathered the ball and fired to second in time for the force play. Reinheimer and Wilson both then struck out swinging, giving Burlington's Joel Krehbiel his fourth save.
Joe DeCarlo left the game during his at-bat in the third inning. The third baseman checked his swing and fouled the ball away, but Brian Loconsole (2-2) actually hit DeCarlo's left hand with the pitch. It was ruled a strike, and Martin Peguero came on to finish the plate appearance. Peguero reached on an eventual Loconsole fielding error.
Justin Seager singled in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games. Over that stretch, Seager is hitting .410, having recorded hits in 16-of-39 at-bats.
The LumberKings will play the role of spoiler over their last four games before opening the second half on the road at Beloit.
Clinton wraps up their first-half home slate with the series finale tomorrow evening against Burlington. The game will feature Clinton right-handed MWL All-Star Edwin Diaz (2-3, 3.42) against Burlington right-hander Ryan Etsell (4-2, 3.77). First pitch is set for 6:30 PM CT at Pohlman Field. All three games at Beloit can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.