BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Being down 16 runs after five innings was no problem for a minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.
The Clinton LumberKings trailed the Burlington Bees 17-1 after five in a game between clubs based in Iowa. Nineteen runs later, the comeback was complete for Clinton, which wound up winning the Class A Midwest League game 20-17 in 12 innings.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR! Class A Clinton LumberKings overcome 16-run deficit to beat Burlington Bees, 20-17. pic.twitter.com/IpqkmY0m30- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 8, 2014
Clinton scored six runs in the sixth inning, five in the eighth and five more in the ninth to tie it at 17. Justin Seager, younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th. Seager finished with four hits.
When asked whether he had ever been part of a game like the one Wednesday night, Seager said, according to MLB.com: "I don't think so. I don't know if anybody's ever played a game like that before."
LumberKings second baseman Lonnie Kauppila had extra incentive to get a hit when he followed Seager's tiebreaking grounder with a two-run single.
"Being up by one and knowing I was going to have to pitch when I haven't pitched in five years, I really wanted to get us some extra runs," he said, according to MLB.com. "I was really glad that I was able to get that hit."
Turned out Kauppila didn't need the insurance runs, as he set the Bees down in order in the 12th inning to earn the save.
The teams combined for 35 hits, including eight doubles, one triple and five home runs. Marcus Littlewood hit a ninth-inning grand slam for the LumberKings that forced extras.
"Rounding the bases," Littlewood said, "I kind of realized what we had done. Pretty incredible. Probably the funnest game I've ever been part of."
Burlington had burst ahead with a seven-run second and made it 8-0 in the fourth. After Clinton scored in the fifth, the Bees added nine runs in the bottom half to take a 16-run lead.
The LumberKings also used a previous rally from an eight-run deficit as inspiration. Clinton had rallied from a 12-4, sixth-inning deficit Saturday in a 16-13 win at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee farm team in Appleton.
"We kind of had that in the back of our heads. I was like, 'Hey, it's not over 'til it's over,'" Kauppila recalled, invoking Yogi Berra's famous saying. "It was a long shot. But once we got into the ninth inning, it was like, 'Hey, we can do it again.'"
Burlington is an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. A crowd of 558 turned out on a warm and breezy night at the 3,200-capacity Community Field to witness the 3-hour, 28-minute epic. Clinton tied Burlington for fourth place at 16-15, six games back of Kane County.
"That's one for the ages for me, for sure," Burlington manager Bill Richardson said, according to The Hawk Eye newspaper. "You just give credit to your opponent for flipping the game on us. We just gave them a little life in that sixth, and they kept running."
The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which governs the minors, didn't have any records of a 16-run comeback. The largest deficit overcome in a big league victory is 12 runs, accomplished by Detroit against the Chicago White Sox on June 18, 1911; by the Philadelphia Athletics versus Cleveland on June 15, 1925; and by the Indians over Seattle on Aug. 5, 2001.
"I told them a few minutes ago not to do it again," Clinton manager Scott Steinmann told The Associated Press on Thursday before laughing, "because I'm tired of answering these phone calls."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.