NEW BRITAIN - As the New Britain Bees watched their slim playoff hopes descend to mathematically impossible, they fought through a back-and-forth series with the Somerset Patriots in New Britain this week, one that included walk-off heroics and extra-inning fireworks, both literal and metaphorical.
The Patriots took the five-game set 3-2 and kept close to the Long Island Ducks in the Liberty Division, while the Bees kept above the .500 mark. It didn’t seem to come easy for either team throughout the grueling series that included five games, one doubleheader and one 11-inning marathon, all capped off by a fireworks display at New Britain Stadium on the Fourth of July when the series concluded.
The only lopsided contest of the week came in the series opener, when the Patriots jumped on New Britain starter Rainy Lara en route to a 10-3 victory. Jimmy Paredes destroyed Bees pitching, slugging a pair of home runs and driving in five to pace the Patriots extra base hit attack, accumulating a total of seven, the most by the team this season.
On the other side, Thomas Dorminy stymied the Bees lineup, allowing just one hit through five innings while Somerset built its monstrous lead to give the Bees a rude welcoming back from their recent road trip.
New Britain bounced back in game two in thrilling fashion, claiming game one of a seven-inning doubleheader by plating two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 walk-off win. Alejandro De Aza started the seventh with a single and immediately came around to score on a game-tying triple to left center off the bat of Jason Rogers. Somerset reliever Mike Antonini intentionally walked Jonathan Galvez and Jared James to pitch to new Bees infielder Rando Moreno, and the new acquisition introduced himself to the home fans with a game-winning sacrifice fly to score Galvez and salvage a sparkling pitching effort from Giovanni Soto, who tossed seven innings and allowed just one run on three hits.
Somerset took game two of the doubleheader 6-3, though the Bees knotted the game at three after a three-run bottom of the second. Tyler Clark and Darren Ford led the attack in the third with run-scoring hits, but New Britain starter Cas Silber couldn’t contain the Patriots in his Atlantic League debut, surrendering four runs through four innings to take the loss.
The Patriots claimed their second straight win on Wednesday night to sink the Bees back to .500 on the season with a 7-5 win in 11 innings. The Bees scored all five of their runs through the first five frames before going quiet against the Somerset bullpen. De Aza went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to lead the offense, while Bijan Rademacher went deep in the first inning to start the scoring. The Bees entered the top of the seventh with a 5-4 lead, but Tyler Danish couldn’t shut the door, walking Dario Pizzano with the bases loaded to force extra innings, where Ramon Flores blasted a two-run home run in the top of the 11th to clinch the series for Somerset.
The Bees salvaged the final game of the long series on the Fourth of July, jumping on starter David Kupiak and grabbing a 3-0 lead in the first thanks to an RBI double by De Aza and an RBI single by Rogers, who added a solo shot in the fourth to extend the lead. New Britain later fell behind 5-4, but four unanswered runs put the game out of reach, as Moreno and Logan Moore drove two runs with a pair of singles to provide valuable insurance in the seventh. Jim Fuller shut the door in the ninth to earn his ninth save of the season.
If there were to be a team MVP awarded for the series, manager Mauro Gozzo might pick Rogers, who hit .388 with six RBI in five games played against a Somerset pitching staff the boasts the lowest ERA (3.30) in the Atlantic League.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com