NEW BRITAIN - With the playoffs just weeks away and ground to make up in the standings, the New Britain Bees picked up a much needed win Monday night.
The Bees scored jumped out ahead early and fought off a late rally from the Road Warriors to open up the four-game set with a 8-6 win at New Britain Stadium.
“It’s big for us for sure,” Bees manager Wally Backman said of the win. “All of these series are really big for us now. Our backs aren’t against the wall, but we have to win series. And this was a good start.”
New Britain used a first-inning rally off of Road Warriors starting pitcher Mike Lee to propel the win. They scored three in the inning with the help of an RBI-single from Jason Rogers, Deibinson Romero scoring on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from Jonathan Galvez.
“It’s always to jump out early in those first few innings and out up two or three runs,” Rogers said. “We haven’t done that in some games, but tonight we got on them early. We just carried that the rest of the way.”
The Bees would later add to the lead with a solo home run from Romero to lead off the third inning, tacked on two more runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.
But it wasn’t a game where one player carried the offense - the Bees had nine hits from seven different batters in the game.
Lee was pulled due to injury in the third inning, but he struggled in his brief start. He gave up four runs in just 2 ⅓ innings, surrendering three hits and two walks.
It helped the Bees were able to get a strong start from Devin Burke. He pitched 7 ⅓ innings, his longest outing of the season. In the start, Burke gave up five runs on six hits and struck out six batters.
“I felt really comfortable out there,” Burke said. “The biggest difference for me in this start was that I was able to control my fastball. I was sporadic in the last inning but I was still able to battle all game with all of my pitches.”
The Road Warriors did most of their scoring in the eighth inning. Bees reliever Brandon Cunniff came in for Burke with the bases loaded and was unable to get the job done. Cunniff surrendered two hits in the inning which helped the Road Warriors put up four runs in the frame.
“His pitch selection was just not good,” Backman said of Cunniff. “To [Daniel Aldrich] he threw two fastballs right by him and then he threw the worst pitch he could throw, a changeup, and it went for a triple. But we talked about it after the game so I’m not worried about him.”
The win helped the Bees gain ½ game on the Somerset Patriots (2 ½ games behind) and Long Island Ducks (four games behind), the two teams ahead of them in the Liberty Division. With just 25 games remaining in the regular season, New Britain will have to leap over one of those two teams in order to get a playoff spot.
“We need to do what the [Oakland Athletics] did the last month,” Backman said jokingly. “We need to go on a run like we did in the first half. We have to play tough. We have the offense to carry us. But we have very good pitching too.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org