Clinton, IA - Playing the role of spoiler is supposed to be fun - there's everything to gain and nothing to lose. But Thursday night at Ashford University Field, the Clinton LumberKings (30-35) left with an all too familiar feeling. The visiting Burlington Bees (36-30) handed the L'Kings their 20th home loss - most in the Midwest League - with the final decided in 11 innings, 3-2.
Another one-run loss, another extra-innings defeat, and another heartbreaker for Clinton. It was a game that wrapped up the LumberKings' first half struggles in a nutshell.
Knotted 0-0 through the first four innings, it was Clinton who scored first with one run in the fifth. Martin Peguero laced a one-out double to left-center, and after moving to third on a Ryan Etsell wild pitch, scored on an infield single by Aaron Barbosa.
Diaz, who cruised through the first five innings, was tagged for two runs in the sixth. The Bees had two singles, took advantage of two Diaz walks and a wild pitch, and stole three bases in the frame. The last single during the rally by Eric Aguilera scored Mike Fish from second.
Down 2-1 and playing for pride, it looked as though the LumberKings would go quietly the rest of the way. Burlington right-hander Alan Busenitz retired all six batters he faced through the seventh and eighth innings, but Bees Manager Bill Richardson opted to go with Ben Carlson in the ninth.
And the move worked in Clinton's favor.
The LumberKings strung four straight singles together in the ninth inning, the third coming off the bat of Chantz Mack which brought in Austin Wilson from second. Corey Simpson followed with a single into center, moving Mack to third, but Peguero struck out swinging, sending the game to extras.
In the 10th, the Bees left the go-ahead run at third. Clinton's Seon Gi Kim induced two groundballs after allowing a one-out single to Stephen McGee. Prior to the 10th, the Bees had left insurance runs at third in the seventh and ninth innings, only to see the LumberKings tie the game in the home half of the ninth.
The bottom of the 10th was nerve-wracking as well. The L'Kings loaded the bases with two outs for Lonnie Kauppila - who was making his first plate appearance since May 25th - but the 2013 16thround pick out of Stanford struck out on five pitches, sending the game to the 11th.
And in the 11th, the wild-card leading Bees put a runner on third for the fourth time in the last five innings. That one proved to be the charm. Chad Hinshaw led off with a single to center against Kim (0-2). Kim got Fish on a pop-out to Reinheimer at short and gave way to left-hander Paul Fry. The southpaw struck out Aguilera for the second out, but following Hinshaw's second stolen base of the game, uncorked two wild pitches over a two-batter span, giving the Bees a 3-2 lead.
Down by one again, Clinton went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 11th against Joey Krehbiel. The save was Krehbiel's fifth of the season and second in consecutive nights. Trevor Foss (3-5), Tuesday night's losing pitcher, grabbed his third win of the season in relief.
Justin Seager singled in the bottom of the ninth, extending his season-high hitting streak to 12 games. Wilson, Mack, Peguero, and Barbosa each recorded two hits in the loss.
The LumberKings hit the road to wrap up the first half with three games against the Peoria Chiefs (34-32) beginning tomorrow night at Dozer Park. Clinton will send left-hander Eddie Campbell (4-4, 5.43) to the mound against Chiefs right-hander Blake McKnight (1-6, 5.29). First pitch is set for 7:00 PM CT. All three games at Peoria can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.