NEW BRITAIN - For the first time this season, the New Britain Bees have momentum on their side.
Entering their next home series on the heels of a 4-2 road trip that included four straight victories, the Bees are looking to erase a sluggish start that saw three consecutive series losses, including two to their division rival Somerset Patriots. New Britain, which started the year with a record of 2-6 after starting 0-6 in 2018, are looking to make up ground in the Liberty Division to get back in the race for the coveted first half crown.
And the next two weeks could go a long way in reestablishing themselves in the race for a playoff berth.
For the Bees, the team’s rocky beginning was only half of the team’s troubles, with each early loss, two divisional foes racked up a win, as the Patriots and Long Island Ducks have stormed out to fast starts, entering Tuesday’s action with 11-3 and 12-5, respectively. Despite New Britain’s recent turnaround, the team still sits at the bottom of the division and five games back of the first-place Patriots. The season is only three weeks old, but in a format where the season is essentially cut in half, every game from here on out carries vital importance.
If the Bees want to make up ground quickly, they are staring at a golden opportunity to do so over the next fortnight, where they play six games against the Lancaster Barnstormers and four games against former manager Wally Backman and the Ducks. The Barnstormers arrived in New Britain on Tuesday with a 5-10 record, good for the second-worst mark in the Atlantic League.
Through Lancaster’s first 15 games, the offense has been dreadful, ranking dead last in the league in team batting average (.219), slugging percentage (.320) and OPS (.621). After a tough start to the season against Somerset, the Bees pitching staff has started to settle in, having allowed two runs or less in four of their last six games, and a pair of series against a weak offensive team like the Barnstormers could help the New Britain arms take off into a run towards the top of the division.
Should the Bees carry their current momentum through a successful series against Lancaster, they could be heading to Long Island with an opportunity to thrust themselves right back into the divisional race.
Backman’s group will present an obvious challenge, but also a chance to directly make up ground against one of the teams they are chasing. The Ducks currently boast the best team ERA in the league by far (2.84), but if the Bees can find away to scratch across runs and hold Long Island’s middle-of-the-pack offense at bay, they could find themselves nipping at the Ducks and Patriots’ heels heading into the final week of May.
New Britain came within two games of erasing a bad start in 2018 and claiming the first half title in the Liberty Division. Should they take care of business against an inferior team and steal a series from a familiar face in Long Island, they might find themselves on track to finishing what they couldn’t last year.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org