NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Bees showed flashes of a playoff team in the first half of the season, riding a 10-game winning streak into contention for the Liberty Division crown. Had it not been for a 2-7 start, the Bees could have been battling for the franchise’s first-ever postseason berth in the final week of the first half of the season.
Now almost a month into the season’s second half, another rough beginning has New Britain experiencing a painful bout of déjà vu.
Through the first 22 games out of the All-Star break, the Bees sit at 7-15 entering Tuesday’s game against the Lancaster Barnstormers, less than a game away from the basement of the Liberty Division, where they finished the first half of the season with a 35-34 record. A recent sweep at the hands of the York Revolution put New Britain in the midst of a five-game losing streak, losing ground in the standings by the day as the first-place High Point Rockers rattled off six wins in a row. The Bees, now five games back of first place and a coveted playoff spot, can look at their rough start to the ‘new’ season as an old and familiar problem.
New Britain’s early struggles began at the start of the 2018 season, when a 0-6 opening to the new campaign put the team in an immediate hole which they were unable to climb out of, coming just two games short of first place and missing out on the postseason. In the first half of this season, the Bees finished much further back thanks to a stacked division where every team finished above .500, while no team in the Freedom Division cracked that mark.
This time, there haven’t been any external excuses. Each team in the Liberty Division struggled out of the gate and left the Bees in a prime position to maintain a realistic chance at the postseason, but instead, they fell flat once again, allowing almost eight runs per game so far in the second half while the Rockers have caught fire in their inaugural season. New Britain entered this week’s series with the Barnstormers tied for the fewest wins in the league in the second half, and are once again facing a deficit that will be tough to erase. Ten straight wins weren’t enough in the first half, and at this rate, another surge of that magnitude might also not be enough if the Bees don’t turn their season around in a hurry.
The Barnstormers represent a reprieve in the schedule, at least on paper, but following those three games on the road, New Britain begins a stretch of 20 straight games against teams above .500, with only one off day in between. Such a grueling and demanding stretch could make or break a season, and the Bees have done themselves no favors heading into the next three weeks. After yet another rocky start, New Britain has to string together some wins against tough competition, or the team’s preseason goal of making the postseason will vanish due a painfully familiar dilemma the Bees have created for themselves.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org