NEW BRITAIN - With one swing of the bat, the long day for the New Britain Bees finally ended - just not the way they had hoped.
Chris Hayes gave up a grand slam to Sean Halton in the top of the 12th inning and the Bees went on to fall to the Lancaster Barnstormers 5-1 in the second game of their day-night doubleheader Thursday night.
After losing the first game of the doubleheader 6-3, the Bees have been swept for the first time this season and the first time in their home ballpark in their short history.
For the first nine innings, it looked as though New Britain would suffer a 1-0 loss. But James Skelton sent the game into extra innings with one swing. The Bees catcher tied the game with a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
It was the Barnstormers who took the first lead. On the sixth pitch of his at-bat, Anderson De La Rosa hit a weak groundball back to New Britain pitcher Nate Roe in the seventh. The Bees were unable to turn the 1-6-3 double play, as Lancaster’s Vladimir Frias was called safe at second, while De La Rosa was out at first. That play allowed Garrett Weber to score the Barnstormers lone run of the game.
The Bees, meanwhile, were unable to provide starter Casey Coleman with any run support. The offense was held to just one hit prior to Skelton’s home run in Game 2, a double by Jamar Walton in the fifth, and as a team struck out 17 times.
Coleman tossed six scoreless innings, giving up five hits, striking out three and walking one. He was followed by Roe, Brandon Fry and Hayes (0-1).
This were not much better for New Britain in the morning game as things fell apart in the seventh inning thanks to a mixture of timely hits by the Barnstormers and poor defensive play by the Bees.
Darian Sandford led the inning off with a single against Beimel. After a wild pitch and stolen base advanced him to third, Lastings Milledge brought Sandford home with a double to right field. Two batters later, a fielding error by third baseman Michael Baca allowed Halton to reach first. Weber then stepped up to the plate and provided some insurance runs with a two-run single.
The Bees, meanwhile, were forced to play from behind. Halton got the Barnstormers on the board first with a ground out off Bees starter Eric Fornataro in the top of the first. Lancaster added another two runs off the Bees pitcher with back-to-back hits from K.C. Hobson and Halton in the third.
In his season debut, as well as his first start since 2015, Fornataro went four innings, giving up the three runs on six hits. He also walked one, while striking out none.
But New Britain’s lineup did come through to tie the game with a three-run bottom of the third. Designated hitter Craig Maddox singled home Steve Carrillo. The very next batter, former Orioles prospect Conor Bierfeldt stepped up to the plate and launched a two-run shot over the left field wall to bring his home run total on the season to three.
After Bierfeldt’s home run, the Bees’ bats went silent and they managed just three hits over the final three innings.
“When we came back, I had a really good feeling,” Bierfeldt said. “We threw some good arms out of the pen. Fornataro settled down and gave us a chance. It was just one of those games, screwy 10:35 in the morning games. It took us a while to wake up.
“When we did, I thought we were going to keep rolling. But that’s just the way baseball is sometimes.”
Fry, Brandon Shimo and Brandon League combined to go the next two innings for the Bees, setting up a tied game for Beimel in the seventh.
“We had it set up like we wanted to,” Cliburn said. “Fornataro did a great job, went four innings. Fry got the two lefties out, Shimo gets in there. It was great to get League in there and, of course, Beimel. It’s been about five days since both those guys pitched. Unfortunately for Joe, we made an error on the ground ball and they got those insurance runs in the end. If we’re going to get beat, it’s going to happen with our best on the field.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @DavidGlovach