Burlington, IA - Looking for their season high eighth straight win, the LumberKings pitching staff came to play on Friday night at Community Field. Four Clinton pitchers combined to three hit the Bees, and the LumberKings offense broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth on a two out single from Luis Liberato. The LumberKings (72-45, 33-14) would add three more in the seventh, vaulting them to a 4-0 shutout over Burlington (56-61, 24-23), their league leading 18th shutout of the year and their season high eighth straight win.
The LumberKings put together a nice two out rally in the first, as with nobody on, Luis Liberato poked a single to left against Austin Robichaux (2-2), and Dalton Kelly extended his hitting streak to eight games by driving a ball into the left center field gap. Kelly got to second, but Troy Montgomery's quick throw in prevented Liberato from scoring. Alex Jackson worked a full count, but would ground out to second to end the inning.
Clinton had another good opportunity to get to Robichaux in the second, as Logan Taylor reached on an error from shortstop Connor Justus with one out. With Arturo Nieto up, a wild pitch moved Taylor to second. However, Nieto and Rayder Ascanio would both ground out, ending the inning with the LumberKings stranding their third runner of the night in scoring position.
Burlington almost got to Nick Wells in the third, as with two outs and nobody on, Troy Montgomery rolled a ball right back to Wells that he fielded cleanly, but lobbed three feet over the head of Dalton Kelly at first. The ball rolled all the way to the Clinton bullpen down the right field line, moving Montgomery to third. Wells fought back and got Brennon Lund to fly out to right to end the inning.
The scoreless tie would be broken in the top of the fifth, as Rayder Ascanio corked a ball with one out to the right center field wall, going for a double. A passed ball with two outs would move him to third, and Ricky Eusebio walked to bring up Luis Liberato. Electing to play a lefty-lefty matchup, acting manager Denny Hocking yanked Austin Robichaux for sidearm left hander Tyler Watson. Liberato blooped one to shallow center that Troy Montgomery dove for, but couldn't make the catch on. The ball just popped out of his mitt, scoring Ascanio to give the LumberKings the one run edge. However, Liberato was thrown out trying to go to second, ending the inning.
Nick Wells started the fifth, but was pulled after a one out walk in favor of Rohn Pierce (4-0). Pierce got the next two he faced to retire the side, but ran into trouble in the sixth. Troy Montgomery led off the inning with a single, but with Brennon Lund up, was caught stealing second. Lund then torched a ball to deep left center, putting him at second. Matt Thaiss then popped out, but Pierce walked Jordan Zimmerman and Brendon Sanger to load the bases. Pierce got tough and got Connor Justus to fly out to center to end the inning.
Not scoring in the sixth proved to be the dagger in the heart for Burlington, as the LumberKings broke the game open against Tyler Watson Arturo Nieto doubled over the head of Brennon Lund in left with one out, and Rayder Ascanio followed with a double into the left field corner, scoring Nieto to make it 2-0 Clinton. Ascanio was caught stealing third with Chris Mariscal up, but Mariscal walked, and Ricky Eusebio then drove one deep to left center field, missing a home run by five feet, but scoring Mariscal. Luis Liberato then reached on an infield single, and aggressive base running by Eusebio got him across to extend the lead to 4-0.
Kyle Wilcox would strike out four over two scoreless frames, and Spencer Herrmann would come in for the ninth and secure the shutout. The LumberKings go for nine straight tomorrow as they send Ronald Dominguez (2-3, 3.04) to the mound against Jose Rodriguez (5-5, 3.46). First pitch is at 6:30, with the game broadcast hitting the airwaves of WCCI 100.3 FM right at first pitch. You can also listen to the game online at www.lumberkings.com
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.