NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain baseball team believed a switch was necessary.
After scoring just 13 runs in their first four games, which produced a 1-3 start, the Hurricanes knew something had to be done and that meant a change to the top of their batting order. The usual lineup of Will Homar, Danniel Rivera, Josh Garcia and Mike Gajda was effectively switched in pairs.
New Britain head coach Roberto Mercado flip-flopped Homar and Rivera, putting Rivera at leadoff and Homar hitting second. Gajda and Garcia were also switched, with Gajda now hitting third and Garcia fourth.
That order set the tone Wednesday afternoon, combining to score eight of the team’s runs and driving in five in the process, to help the Hurricanes snap a three-game losing streak with a 12-2 win over Hartford Public.
“We made some adjustments to try to shuffle around the lineup to see what would work,” Mercado said. “We put Danny at the leadoff spot and he’s done an excellent job up there. He’s been getting on base leading off every game. Will behind him and then Gajda, everyone has been stepping up and doing well. We’re working on our middle to the bottom of our lineup to get some things going, get some offense out of them and it worked out [Wednesday], so it’s been good.”
As the leadoff hitter, Rivera knows it’s his job “to get on base no matter what,” but added those hitters at the top of the lineup don’t feel any pressure. They know they have to produce.
“To be honest, I feel like my team would have my back no matter what I do,” Rivera said, “but it’s going to be a really big opportunity to make sure I get on base to help my team in the long run.”
There was a little bit of concern regarding Homar - an integral part of the team’s offense - who was in and out of the game due to a knee injury. Luckily for New Britain, the injury isn’t serious and Mercado said Homar should be good to start today’s game against Windsor.
As for the team and finally getting a result the Hurricanes expected when the season started, Rivera believes they have done a much better job coming together, both in practice and in the games. Mercado shared the same sentiment, crediting the team’s ability to stay confident, especially at the top of the lineup.
“The coaches and the players are all locked in all of the time,” Mercado. “They always make fun of me because I say, ‘hey, we got to get locked in’ and they know that’s the expectation coming into every game. There are no gimmes and you have to play the game the right way. And when you have positive energy, good things will happen and the guys have been great on the bench talking it up.”
Despite a sluggish start, the expectations are still high for New Britain this season. If the top of the lineup continues to produce like it did against Hartford Public, the Hurricanes are poised for the deep postseason run they expected to make.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at email@example.com