NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Bees arrived home on Sunday feeling much different than when they returned to the Hardware City from their first road trip of the season.
After dropping their first two road series of the year earlier this month, the Bees claimed a pair of series wins away from home this past week, taking two of three games from both the High Point Rockers and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The weekend set was originally scheduled for four games, but heavy rain on Sunday pushed the would-be finale back to June 10.
The Bees left its first home series of the season with a 2-6 record, and now get set to host the Lancaster Barnstormers at New Britain Stadium with a 6-8 record, as the team tries to erase a slow start for the second year in a row.
New Britain seized its series against the Blue Crabs thanks to stellar pitching over the first two games. The Bees, which entered the series with the second-worst team ERA in the Atlantic League, held Southern Maryland to just two runs over the opening two contests. The opening win was a huge victory for the Bees and starting pitcher Christian Friedrich, who was knocked around for 11 runs in his first two starts of the season against the Somerset Patriots. Taking the mound against the Blue Crabs, Friedrich went a long way to erasing his sluggish beginning by tossing six shutout innings, striking out six and walking just one.
The offense mustered just two runs as Friedrich mowed down Southern Maryland, but Jim Fuller and the rest of the bullpen protected the narrow lead for Friedrich in a 2-1 win. Fuller, who pitched a scoreless seventh, recorded his third hold in four games, as he has become one of Mauro Gozzo’s most reliable bullpen arms in the early going.
New Britain received another strong outing from its starting pitcher in game two, as Cory Riordan went the distance in a seven inning affair, allowing just one run on four hits. The game was abbreviated due to a scheduled double header, and the Bees made sure to claim game one, and the weekend series, behind Riordan and the clutch bat of Ozzie Martinez.
Riordan was cruising in game two, but so were the Blue Crabs, who held a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when Gozzo called on Martinez to pinch hit with the bases loaded and one man out. Martinez rewarded Gozzo’s faith with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead, and the Bees hung on for a 4-1 victory.
New Britain appeared to pick up where it left off in game three, plating five runs in the top of the first thanks to first innings home runs by Jason Rogers and Deibinson Romero. The Bees carried a 5-3 lead into the fifth, but reliever Kyle Simon was roughed up for six runs as the Blue Crabs pulled ahead to win the slugfest 10-8, in a game that carried a much different narrative than its two predecessors.
In addition to solid starting pitching, the Bees won the abbreviated series thanks to hot hitting from Romero and Alexi Amarista, both of whom recorded at least one hit in all three games. Romero finished the weekend 5-for-11 with two RBI, while Amarista recorded four hits and two runs scored.
The loss in Saturday’s finale snapped what was a four-game winning streak for the Bees. They’ll look to start a new one at home against the Barnstormers this week, who enter the series with a 5-10 record.
Despite the Bees’ recent success, they still sit five games back in the Liberty Division, as the Patriots and Long Island Ducks continue to build upon their strong starts. The two teams boast a combined record of 23-7 so far.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org