NEW BRITAIN - It hasnâ€™t been the kindest of starts to the second half of the season for the New Britain Bees, but clutch hitting and a much-needed collective pitching performance helped them return home with a big series win.
After dropping Tuesdayâ€™s series opener to the Lancaster Barnstormers for what was the teamâ€™s sixth loss in a row, the Bees rebounded to take the next two to salvage the road trip with the teamâ€™s first series win in the last four attempts. The Barnstormers may be at the bottom of the Freedom Division, but it was still important for New Britain to take care of business and avoid digging itself further down the Liberty Division standings, and it accomplished that mission in thrilling fashion.
It appeared the Bees were doomed for another series filled with starting pitching woes after the Barnstormers opened game one with a three-run first inning off of starter Rainy Lara, but the Beesâ€™ rotation collected itself to temporarily change the frustrating narrative that had followed the team since the end of the All-Star break.
Akeel Morris helped save the series in game two by tossing six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six. Lancaster had its own solid pitching performance thanks to John Anderson, who allowed only an RBI single to Jason Rogers in the top of the fourth over his six innings of work. The Bees bats struggled in game two, but Rogersâ€™ base hit was all they needed. New Britain, entering the game with the highest collective ERA in the Atlantic League, got three combined shutout innings from Sam Gervacio, Michael Johnson and Jim Fuller, who earned the save with a clean ninth inning that included two strikeouts, giving the Bees a 1-0 win.
David Roseboom took the mound in the series finale and picked up right where the Beesâ€™ staff left off, shutting out the Barnstormers through his first four innings of work before surrendering a pair of runs in the fifth and handing the ball to Jed Bradley, with New Britain nursing a 4-2 lead. Bradley immediately gave up a pair of runs as the Barnstormers tied the game, but the rest of the bullpen, especially Fuller, pitched effectively the rest of the way and set the Bees up for an exciting finish.
Trailing 5-4 in the top of the ninth, Mike Carp brought in the tying run with a sacrifice fly, before Rando Moreno and Jonathan Galvez lifted sacrifice flies of their own to give the Bees a 7-5 win in 10 innings. Fuller, who just pitched a high-leverage inning the night before, tossed two perfect innings that included four strikeouts, dropping his season ERA to 1.15.
The pitching improvement for the Bees was desperately needed, though there still were areas of concern. Newly acquired Brady Dragmire allowed a run in 1 1/3 innings of work in game three, though the bigger concern was the four walks allowed in that span, which played a major part in his ERA climbing to 10.80, though itâ€™s still a small sample size. Bradley, who had been struggling in the rotation, was tried in a relief role and watched his ERA rise to 7.51, though it could take time for him to adjust to a new role, if thatâ€™s where manager Mauro Gozzo decides to keep him.
It was only three games, but with the worst offensive team in the Atlantic League in the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in town this weekend, the Beesâ€™ improved results on the mound against the Barnstormers could be what they need to get better results the rest of the way. Their playoff hopes depend on it.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org