NEW BRITAIN - As the calendar nears mid-June, the Atlantic League All-Star Game, and the end of the first half of the season, is approaching quickly. The Midsummer Classic is just three weeks away, and the first half of the 2019 campaign will come to a close July 7.
If the New Britain Bees want to contend for the first-half title and clinch a highly-coveted playoff spot, they will have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks. In fact, the next two weeks will likely decide whether New Britain will make a push for a postseason berth or fall into a hole too deep to climb out of.
Entering Wednesday, the Bees sit 5½ games back of the Long Island Ducks, and three games back of both the Somerset Patriots and High Point Rockers. That is quite a lot to make up in less than a month, and it likely seems like an even more insurmountable deficit given the opponents that await New Britain in the near future.
Over the next two weeks, the Bees will have to take on the Sugar Land Skeeters, who own a comfortable lead in first place in the Freedom Division thanks to a 28-18 record, a total of seven times. They also will have to travel to face the Ducks for three games immediately after a home series with the Skeeters. Not only will New Britain face tough opponents, but the majority of its remaining schedule - 17 of the next 24 games - is against teams outside the Liberty Division, meaning a string of victories won’t guarantee making up ground.
The Bees appeared to have a chance to make up ground in their division in late May thanks to a 10-game winning streak. But they have since reversed back to their early-season selves, while failing to take care of business against inferior squads.
New Britain split a four-game set with the Lancaster Barnstormers at home this past weekend, despite the Barnstormers being nine games under .500. Losing the first two games of their current road series with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs didn’t help either, considering the Blue Crabs are even worse than the Barnstormers this year, holding a record of 15-31.
Making up 5½ games in three weeks isn’t impossible, but given the Bees’ upcoming opponents and their recent play, it feels like an incredibly tall task. Of course, the second half of the season and another chance at a playoff spot still awaits, but the first-half title is much more desirable one since it gives a team months to prepare for a championship push, keep players rested and healthy and set up a playoff starting rotation.
Looking ahead at the immediate schedule that awaits the Bees, it appears that they won’t have that luxury this season.