NEW BRITAIN - There was a little bit of everything at New Britain Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the New Britain Bees defeated the York Revolution 7-2 to win the season-opening series two games to one: diving catches in the outfield, reaction plays in the infield, home runs, strong pitching and a dugout-clearing confrontation.
“It definitely feels good,” Bees third baseman Jovan Rosa said about the win. “I feel like we’ve got a good team. We’ve got a team that can compete. It’s something that’s very positive and something that I’m very happy about.”
The majority of the game’s excitement came in the bottom of the sixth inning and the top of the seventh. The Bees held a 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the sixth and they extended their two-run lead with three more runs in the frame.
Melvin Mercedes entered the game for the Revolution on the mound and James Skelton welcomed him with a double on his first offering. Two batters later, Rosa got his second hit of the game to drive him home.
The hit was the 800th of Rosa’s career and also his second of the season after entering Sunday’s game with none through the first two games.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know about the [milestone],” Rosa said with a chuckle. “The first couple of games, obviously, I felt like the pitching was a little ahead of me. The timing isn’t there yet. But it’s a process. You’ve got to stay positive and understand that it’s part of baseball. You’re going to fail. And I feel a lot better today, which is a great thing going into the off-day.”
The next batter was Craig Maddox, who took Mercedes deep over the Mister Softee sign in right center field for a two-run homer.
Before getting the inning-ending double play off Connor Bierfeldt, Mercedes hit Jon Griffin with a pitch in the left arm, which Griffin was not happy about, but he took his base quietly.
Tempers flared in the top of the seventh inning, as Nate Roe came out and plunked Alonzo Guzman with the first pitch of the frame. As the home plate umpire warned both dugouts, Guzman threw down his bat, glared at Roe and began walking toward the mound.
Both dugouts and bullpens cleared as the Bees and Revolution came to their teammates’ aid, but the confrontation did not escalate beyond the opposing teams staring each other down and talking.
“The pitch got away,” Roe said after the game. “But I was happy with myself. I stood my ground. [Guzman’s] a big guy so it’s definitely easy to get scared.”
The excitement eventually faded and Guzman found his way to first base before the Bees retired the next three York batters.
“It was just throwing strikes, really,” Roe said about settling back in. “Getting ahead, strike one, strike two, that kind of stuff helps. It just puts the batter in defense mode.”
The Revolution opened the scoring in the top of the second inning. With one out, Michael Burgess hit the fifth home run of the series, depositing an offering from Bees starter Brian Dupra (1-0) over the right field wall.
But Dupra recovered, getting Ryan Dent to pop out foul and Luis Alen to fly out to center field to hold York to just one run.
New Britain got even in the bottom of the third with the help of struggling York pitcher Logan Williamson.
After getting Michael Baca to ground out in his professional baseball debut, Williamson walked Skelton. He then proceeded to surrender a single to Steve Carrillo and, after striking out Rosa, threw a wild pitch that allowed Skelton and Carrillo to advance.
Maddox drew another walk to load the bases following the wild pitch. Griffin nearly blew the game wide open, but his bomb down the third base line veered foul. He ultimately drew another walk off Williamson to force in Skelton and tie the game.
The Bees threatened to take the lead for the first time in the bottom of the fourth, as Paul Kronenfeld hit a leadoff double off York relief pitcher Chris Cody, but his three teammates following him could not drive him in.
After an inning and a half of scoreless baseball, the Bees finally got their first lead in the fifth.
Against Ty’Relle Harris, York’s third pitcher of the game, Carrillo led off with a single and Rosa followed with a double, his first hit of the season. Maddox then drove in both Carrillo and Rosa with a single to give New Britain a 3-1 lead.
After Maddox’s two-run single, the Bees applied more pressure but could not get any more runs across.
Griffin struck out looking, but Bierfeldt hit a double into right field and sent Maddox to third. Kronenfeld grounded out to third before Michael Crouse drew a walk to load the bases. Yet Harris got himself out of the jam by getting Baca to hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Dupra lasted five innings before giving way to Roe, Brandon Fry pitched the eighth inning and Chris Hayes came in to close in the ninth in a non-save situation.
The opening innings featured some outstanding defense from both teams. In the top of the first inning, Crouse sent the Bees back to the dugout with a full-extension diving catch for the third out. Then, in the bottom of the same inning, the Bees had runners on second and third with two outs. It looked as though Rosa has a hit down the third-base line but Dent made a sliding grab, made the throw to second to kick off an inning-ending double play.
The Bees answered back on defense in the top of the third, when Skelton threw out Brandon Thomas trying to steal second. Skelton fired a dime to second to erase Thomas, who had been hit by a Dupra pitch to lead off the inning.
Dent provided the Revolution’s answer to Skelton’s play in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded, two outs and Williamson struggling on the mound, Bierfeldt hit a hard line drive to the left but Dent leaped up to rob him of at least one RBI and to end the inning.
“It was definitely important,” Rosa said about the defense. “Even in the first game, we lost by a few runs but if you take away some of the errors, that’s a completely different ballgame. Our pitchers are going to keep us in the game and that’s something that we’ve got to cherish and we’ve got to back them up. We’ve got to have their backs.”