NEW BRITAIN - Mike Lee pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run baseball for the New Britain Bees, but his team could not provide enough offense to keep up with the Somerset Patriots late in the game, as the Bees fell by a score of 8-4 on Tuesday afternoon.
Lee faced only one batter over the minimum, as Somerset’s Olmo Rosario had a two-out hit in the first inning. In the top of the third, Scott Kelly reached first on an error by Jovan Rosa, but Kelly was caught stealing during the next at-bat for the third out.
Lee struck out six and 64 of his 101 pitches went for strikes. He was also in line for the win when he left the game with one out in the seventh inning.
“Good. Lot of strikes,” Lee said about his performance. “It always feels good to be able to hit spots, go after guys and not pitch in deep counts. It’s really what helped us today.
“[Catcher James] Skelton did a really good job of calling pitches to keep them off balance. All I had to do was focus on making that pitch because I know he’s got an idea to keep them off balance. I know he’s got that plan and I can just execute.”
The Bees held a 1-0 lead when Lee exited thanks to Michael Crouse, who homered off Somerset starter Lucas Irvine in the third inning. The ball got out of the park in a hurry and was measured at 375 feet. That run held up as the only score in the game for another three innings.
“Pretty good,” Crouse said about how the homer felt. “I wanted to jump on that guy early because I know he has a pretty good cutter and I’m not a fan of those things. So I got a pitch that I saw that was straight and a little in and I put a good swing on it.”
The lead evaporated in the seventh inning after Lee was sent to the dugout. Lee hit the first batter and after getting a fly out to center field, he walked Kyle Roller and surrendered a single to load the bases, prompting New Britain manager Stan Cliburn to give him the hook.
Brandon Fry came in from the bullpen and, before striking out Carlos Guzman, threw a pitch in the dirt away from Skelton, allowing the tying run to score from third.
After Fry dispatched with Guzman, Cliburn brought in Nate Roe, who struck out Tyler Bortnick to end the inning and avoid more damage.
“[That was] huge,” Lee said. “That’s one thing we have here, is trust in our bullpen to come in and get the job done. That was huge. And the wild pitch, it’s kind of something that happens.”
Despite a pair of singles, the Bees could not retake the lead in the home seventh and the Patriots took their first lead of the game in the next half inning. With Roe still on the mound, Somerset got a single, drew a walk and reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Christian Morrero then stepped up and hit a two-run single. Rosario followed with a sacrifice fly and Roller hit a two-run homer over the right field wall.
In the home eighth, Craig Maddox led off with a single and Conor Bierfeldt got his only hit of the game with a double. With one out, Crouse walked to load the bases and Jamar Walton’s subsequent fielder’s choice ball allowed Maddox to score.
With runners on first and third, Tsuyoshi Fujiwara - who was signed by New Britain on Tuesday from Japan - got his first professional hit, a two-run double.
But Somerset tacked on another pair of runs in the top of the ninth and the Bees could not further close the gap in the home ninth.
“It’s always good,” Crouse said about the comeback attempt in the eighth. “We’re always going to try to put together good ABs. Unfortunately, it just happened too late today. We’ve got to do a better job of jumping on teams a little bit early and putting runs on so we can put the pressure on them.
“Execute the hit, execute the situation and two-out hits are really going to be the deciding factor of winning the ball games.”