Down 17-1 after five innings would generally be a time to clear the benches, save the bullpen, let some utility infielder try out his knuckleball. Or something.
Not usually time to mount an epic, improbable comeback.
But no one told the Clinton LumberKings.
Amazingly enough, Low-A Midwest League squad not only scored 16 runs in four innings to force a 17-17 tie with the Burlington Bees, it went on to score three in the top of the 12th to take an unlikely 20-17 win.
And some of my favorite prospects played key roles.
First, Clinton went quietly through four. Its first baserunner was erased with a double play, and its second trying to extend a single to two bases. In the 5th, the LumberKings scratched out a run when The Tank Tyler O’Neill doubled and came home on a ground ball and a sac fly.
That just got Clinton back within 8-1, before another nine runs came crashing down in the bottom of the inning. Unfortunate pitcher Tommy Burns allowed six baserunners and every one of them scored, and the whole deluge was capped by a grand slam off of Paul Fry to make it 17-1.
But Clinton didn’t skip a beat. Bigger little brother Justin Seager started the ball rolling, just as his smaller older brother Kyle often does in Seattle.
He tripled to kick off the top of the 6th, and, after a single, infielder Zach Shank‘s three-run homer made it 17-4.
Then came underrated catcher Marcus Littlewood — a Spectometer “super-sleeper” special — who doubled to start a new rally. Then an error, two wild pitches and another error, and it was 17-6. And around came Justin Seager again. His second hit of the inning brought home another run and it was 17-7. Yes, football scores.
Then came Clinton pitching heroes — and the first was Rafael Pineda. The Texas A&M product was excellent last year in Pulaski, but we’re always wary of older guys from major college programs lighting up the low minors. Anyway, Pineda was strong Wednesday, shutting down Burlington for two innings.
Two innings that were critical, as the LumberKings were scoreless in the 7th, and entered the 8th still down 17-7.
Then a single and three doubles (with a walk mixed in) brought home four more, and it was 17-12 after eight.
Pineda shut down Burlington in the bottom of the inning, so Clinton needed five in the 9th to stay alive.
This time Reynolds grounded out to open the inning, but then four straight singles brought in a run and loaded the bases. It was 17-13 in the 9th, and up came …
Marcus Littlewood. Grand Salami Time!
Yes, you couldn’t script it any better. A grand slam in the 9th to make it 17-17 and complete the 16-run comeback.
And that led to another one of our guys: Spectometer ‘super-sleeper” relief pitcher Emilio Pagan.
Pagan is the guy so awesome that he’s only given up four earned runs in his entire pro career. Only one home run. And only seven walks. Here are his unbelievable numbers:
42.1 IP | 0.85 ERA | 0.90 WHIP | 6.6 H/9 | 0.2 HR/9 | 1.5 BB/9 | 11.3 K/9
He was mostly a third baseman and part-time pitcher at tiny Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina when the M’s snagged him in the 10th round last year.
So, in this game, he pitches a scoreless 9th, 10th and 11th with only one hit and four strikeouts.
Finally, then, in the 12th, 1b Jeff Zimmerman kicked things off with a double. He would eventually score on a bases-loaded ground out from Seager, and infielder Lonnie Kauppila added some insurance with a two-run single.
And it was Kauppila who needed the insurance, since he got sent out to the mound to finish things up.
As far as I can tell, Kauppila didn’t pitch in college (where he was a Stanford teammate of Austin Wilson and Jordan Pries) so he was an unusual choice, but he got the job done, facing only three demoralized Burlington hitters.
And so it ended with yet another football score: 20-17.
- Speaking of Wilson, he hasn’t played since May 4, when he came out after two at-bats, so he wasn’t part of the miracle comeback.
- Ordinarily we’d make a bigger deal out of:
The first AAA Blash Splash! And Nick Franklin‘s sixth of the year as well. And then Franklin scoring the winning run from second base on a passed ball. But not today.
- High-A High Desert also went 12 innings, but without nearly as much drama as Clinton. They fell to Rancho Cucamonga, but got a strong (but once again walk-heavy) start from Tyler Pike: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K.