NEW BRITAIN - Heading into last weekendâ€™s series with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the New Britain Bees were looking to carry over momentum of solid pitching and clutch hitting from their series win against the Lancaster Barnstormers.
Unfortunately for the Bees, only one aspect of that series victory carried over, resulting in two straight losses to end their weekend set.
After pouncing on the Blue Crabs for 13 runs in the series opener, New Britain dropped two consecutive games in extra innings, failing to come up with the timely hit to complement a pitching staff that has been much improved since a week ago. The Bees, entering the weekend with the worst ERA and WHIP in the league, saw their starters keep the team in all three contests, but it wasnâ€™t enough to draw closer in the Liberty Division standings.
Cory Riordan, who had been struggling since returning to the rotation following a lengthy recovery from injury, turned in a quality start in Friday nightâ€™s game, allowing just three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings while the Bees built an early 9-1 lead.
Riordan, however, was the only beneficiary of such run support throughout the weekend. New Britain boasts one of the top offenses in the Atlantic League and have spent much of the second half of the season trying to outscore their ineffective pitching staff, but Saturday and Sunday proved to be the opposite case.
It appeared as if Saturday would be more like the Beesâ€™ status quo for the season, scoring six runs in the first six innings to keep pace with the Blue Crabs, who plated six runs of their own against Devin Burke. New Britain was trailing 7-6 in the eighth before a Jason Rogers sacrifice fly tied the game, but aside from Rogers, production with runners in scoring position was hard to come by.
Brady Dragmireâ€™s early struggles with his new team continued when he allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, but Rogers stepped up again with a game-tying single in the bottom half of the frame to send the marathon to the 12th, where a rare misstep from closer Jim Fuller put the Bees behind again, and the team couldnâ€™t tie it a third time, falling 9-8 after managing just five hits in 22 chances with runners in scoring position.
New Britain left 13 men on base in the deflating loss, setting up a rubber match on Sunday.
The Bees got everything they could have wanted in Sundayâ€™s starter Rainy Lara, who mowed down the Blue Crabs through 8 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit while striking out nine. Easily Laraâ€™s best outing of the season, it was spoiled by a normally potent offense that was shut out through 11 innings by Southern Marylandâ€™s pitching staff. Jed Bradley, still trying out his new role in the bullpen, surrendered the only run of the game in the top of the 11th, as the Blue Crabs took a 1-0 win in the series finale, despite managing only two hits the entire game.
Much like in game two, New Britain came up short with runners in scoring position, going hitless in seven at-bats.
The Blue Crabs entered the series as one of the weakest offenses in the league, so the Beesâ€™ continued improvements on the mound were expected. The absence of offense in the series finale and lack of clutch hitting through the final two games, however, was the difference between a second straight series win and a series loss that put New Britain six games back in the division race.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org