NEW BRITAIN – The New Britain Bees never really put it together this season as Friday's game against the Brockton Rox marked its season finale.
As the last-place team, the Bees missed the postseason, but Bristol native Jagger Duquette shined for New Britain in an otherwise forgettable year for the team.
Working out of the Bees bullpen for most of the season, Duquette became one of manager Donnie McKillop's most reliable arms. As of Aug. 12, Duquette posted a 1.75 earned-run average in 36 innings pitched, the best among any New Britain pitcher with at least 20 innings of game action.
“I think it went really well,” Duquette said. “I'm leading in a lot of the stats I want to lead in, like a lot of the sabermetric stuff that people don't really look at, it's more of what I look at. Overall, I think I did really good. I met my expectations so I'm happy with it.”
Duquette's strikeouts-per-nine-innings average rests at 8.75, while his walks-per-nine-innings average comes in at 3.00.
These impressive stat lines didn't come to be overnight however as Duquette focused on upping his confidence at the beginning of the Bees' season, following months and months of delays and disruptions because of covid-19.
“Basically just to get reps because I haven't pitched a lot in the last year and a half,” Duquette said when asked what is goal for the year was. “I just needed to get out and get that comfort level again.
“In high school I had that comfort level, but at school this year it wasn't the same,” Duquette said. “Being on the mound here consistently and getting good innings, it helped a lot and my confidence sky-rocketed.”
At Wagner, Duquette had a rough go in 2021, giving up 11 runs on 11 hits for a 3.52 ERA in just 7.2 innings.
Since he arrived in New Britain, Duquette has looked much different as the 6-foot-1, 185-pouder hasn't allowed more than one earned-run in any of his 20 appearances.
Duquette's comfortability with the Bees has also proven to be a factor in the former Bristol Eastern product's terrific campaign.
“I love playing here, it's my second year here and playing in front of these fans every night is great,” Duquette said. “It's a lot of fun.
“This is my third year in this league,” Duquette said. “I've had temp contracts going into my freshman year and then going into my sophomore year, so it's nice to be here again and be an older guy, rather than an 18-year-old. It definitely helped my confidence a lot with not playing much at school.”
After appearing to overcome the mental challenges rather quickly, Duquette focused on technical improvements that have clearly yielded successful results.
“I tried to clean my mechanics up a little bit, doing that has helped,” Duquette said. “I brought my velocity up a little bit. That has defintely been a main goal, I've always been a strike-thrower, my stuff moves, but I just needed the velocity to get there. It's not quite where I want it to be, but it's better than where it was when I got here.”
Prior to Aug. 12, Duquette totaled 35 strikeouts and 20 hits surrendered.
Having familiar faces among the pitching staff has been another positive for Duquette in Bees teammate and cross-town neighbor John Mikosz. Mikosz starred at Southington from 2013-2017.
“I played him in high school actually,” Duquette said. “He pitched against us, my sophomore year his senior year. I don't really remember him much, but I know he pitched against our school. So that was pretty cool, to be on a team with somebody I played against.”
Now just a few weeks away from the start of his junior season at Wagner, Duquette feels he's hit the reset button with his strong summer season.
“We have a new head coach this year, a new pitching coach, so it's a clean slate,” Duquette said. “Nobody's got anything on anybody. Whatever you got in the fall is what you got in the fall and that's how it's going to be in the spring so I'm excited to get out there.”
Wagner finished the 2021 season with a 11-25 record.
At Bristol Eastern, Duquette was a two-time CCC All-Conference player and struck out 75 batters and secured a 5-2 record during his senior year for the Lancers.
Duquette played his freshman year of college at Bridgeport, but only appeared in three games.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.