BRISTOL - The warm spring weather still hasnâ€™t arrived, and the bats of the New Britain baseball team have had just as much trouble warming up this season.
â€śWeâ€™re struggling at the plate right now,â€ť head coach Roberto Mercado said matter-of-factly on Wednesday.
Through the seasonâ€™s first three games, the Hurricanes have managed just three runs scored, all of them coming in a season-opening loss to Wethersfield. New Britain has been shut out since the fourth inning of that season opener, totaling 18 innings. Most recently, the Hurricanes were silenced over seven innings by Bristol Eastern starter Jagger Duquette, who struck out 10 and allowed just two hits on Wednesday.
â€śWe have a lot of inexperienced guys at the varsity level that havenâ€™t seen this pitching,â€ť Mercado said. â€śWe faced a tough guy at East Catholic and now another tough one [Wednesday], so we just have to get better every day and make some adjustments at the plate and have more plate discipline.â€ť
New Britain is certainly young, and trying to navigate through a tough road on their early season schedule while trotting out four varsity newcomers in the starting lineup. Itâ€™s not the ideal situation for Mercado, but he believes his young group will be able to learn on the fly and adjust to the higher level of pitching as the season progresses.
â€śWeâ€™ll continue to get better,â€ť Mercado said. â€śLike I said, we have an inexperienced squad and putting some guys out there who normally may not be at the varsity level yet, but we are where we are and weâ€™ll keep working to get better.â€ť
Mercado acknowledged his team, who is battling against a higher level of competition against fresh arms in the beginning of the season, is experiencing a certain level of frustration. At the same time, that can also serve the players in the long run.
â€śI think guys are learning to be mentally tough,â€ť Mercado said. â€śItâ€™s mind over matter right now. Some guys arenâ€™t feeling good, and itâ€™s our job as coaches to get them there and work on things that arenâ€™t going well, including that mindset of being confident up there, even when things arenâ€™t going well.â€ť
With frustration comes a pressing urge to break out and produce, leading to some impatient at-bats that were showcased in the 10 strikeout day in Bristol on Wednesday.
â€śWe just need to stop being so anxious at the plate, and everyone needs to come together as a team,â€ť senior shortstop Danniel Rivera said. â€śOnce we get in the rhythm of hitting and seeing more starting pitching, I feel like weâ€™ll get better and go far from here on out.â€ť
Rivera is one of a few seasoned starters for New Britain and is looking to lead the Hurricanes to the state tournament for the third straight season. Once an inexperienced youngster himself, Rivera has a simple message to his teammates that may be gripping the bats tighter than usual as they tread through their first varsity games: relax.
â€śI would just tell them to stay calm,â€ť Rivera said. â€śJust because itâ€™s varsity and itâ€™s new to them, you just need to stay calm and do what you love, which is playing baseball.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org