NEW BRITAIN - It might only be the beginning of the season, but for the New Britain Bees, it was a series they would like to quickly forget.
“I knew what Somerset was bringing in here based on what they had done to Lancaster,” Bees manager Stan Cliburn said.
From Monday to Thursday, the Bees played four games against the Somerset Patriots and finished with zero wins and four losses. New Britain was in three of those games - Monday night ended with a 12-1 rout - but a lack of offense ended up dooming the team. A finally tally of the runs scored in the series shows a 23-7 skew in favor of Somerset.
“We spend so much time on battling practice,” Cliburn said. “We spent a solid hour before [Thursday’s] game to get guys ready and feeling good, but you have to take it between the white lines at 6:35.”
For the most part, New Britain got the pitching it needed, especially in the final two games with two of their best pitchers on the mound. Starters Jonathan Pettibone and Brian Dupra went five- and 5 2/3-scoreless innings, respectively, and it looked as though for a short time the Bees would be able win at least one game, if not split the series.
But as it had in the first two games, everything came back to the lack of offense.
Pettibone exited with the game scoreless and Dupra left with a 1-0 lead. The Bees were able to get plenty of base hits in the series, the Patriots outhit them just 31-30. The problem was their inability to do anything with runners on base.
Over those four games, New Britain stranded 25 runners, including leaving seven and eight on in the second and third games. And on the season, only two players are hitting above .250 entering Friday - first baseman Jon Griffin (.261) and designated hitter and hitting coach Craig Maddox (.271).
“Hitting is all about rhythm and they say hitting is contagious and it is,” Maddox said. “When guys start getting knocks, the guys behind him go up there with confidence. Early on in the season, we just haven’t put the ball in play well. That’s it and it kills. We need to hit that stride.”
Still, no one in the Bees clubhouse is close to panicking, and there is no reason to just yet. Entering Friday, the team has only played 13 games.
“Panic button? No. Concerned? Yes,” Cliburn said. “Offensively, you can’t win scoring one, two, three runs a night and the strikeouts have to be cut down.”
After the Somerset series, New Britain sat 4-9 and had lost seven straight at home.
At this time last year, the Bees were 6-7, not a big difference, but the slow start made them have to play catchup in an attempt to win a first-half playoff spot. It proved too much ground to make up and they missed out. Avoiding the same issue from here on out is important, especially in a more competitive league than last year proved to be.
“I think it will turn around,” Dupra said. “We’ve been in every game. There’s been a couple that have gotten away from us here and there, but if you look at it and dive into it, it’s just been a play or two or a little thing here and there. I think as we put those things together, we’ll string some wins together and rail off quite a few. We’re too talented.”
Now, the Bees are down in Sugar Land, Texas for six games against the Skeeters and are hoping a change of scenery will do them some good. Sometimes getting away is the best thing.
“It’s a tough environment down there,” Cliburn said. “I hope we go on that Sugar Land trip and go 4-2, 5-1 to offset how we’ve played at home. Winning takes care of everything. If we’re losing with our best and our best isn’t good enough, you have to take a long look when it comes to June 1 when this roster goes down to 25. You have to keep battling and I think our guys are going to keep battling.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach