NEW BRITAIN - Despite a borderline disastrous start to the second half of the season, the New Britain Bees are within striking distance of a playoff spot, threatening to pass the High Point Rockers and creep up on the first place Long Island Ducks in the Liberty Division race.
The Bees earned a crucial series win in High Point this week, but the road trip continues with a four-game set this weekend against the Lancaster Barnstormers (42-72). The series for New Britain begins a stretch of 12 straight games where it will face teams below .500, making it a golden opportunity to be right in the thick of the playoff race by the middle of September. Of course, it starts by taking care of business in Lancaster.
Fortunately for the Bees, they have already claimed three of their four series against the Barnstormers so far, including the last two. With a 7-5 overall record against Lancaster this season, New Britain has a chance to continue its success against an inferior squad and continue to build momentum towards a potential first-ever postseason berth.
If the Bees are to take this four-game series, the difference will likely be at the plate, where New Britain ranks second in the Atlantic League with a .750 team OPS. The Bees showcased that ability on Wednesday when they blasted five home runs in a win over the Rockers, and the long ball can return this weekend against a Barnstormers team with a 4.72 team ERA, the second-highest mark in the league.
The Bees also hold a potentially critical advantage in terms of their plate discipline, having drawn a league-high 444 walks so far this season, while the Lancaster pitching staff has surrendered 432 free passes, the highest mark in the league to date. New Britain didn’t take advantage of the Barnstormers’ pitching woes last time the two teams faced (the Bees won the series but only scored 10 combined runs over three games), but looking at the overall body of work, Lancaster is certainly susceptible to an offensive explosion, and New Britain is more than capable of dishing one out.
The Bees would love continued offensive production from Jason Rogers and Mike Carp in this series, as the two have turned it on during this current road trip. Rogers has driven in four runs in his last three games, while Carp has added two home runs and two multi-hit games in just three contests. Catcher Logan Moore also picked up three hits, including a home run, in his first two games of this week’s trip and is another candidate for a big series in Lancaster.
The Barnstormers may have the worst record in the league by a wide margin, but they still have a few threats in their lineup. Third baseman Joey Terdoslavich has 19 home runs to his credit this season, good for the fourth-highest total in the Atlantic League. Outfielder Caleb Gindl’s 78 RBI are the third-highest mark in the league, giving Lancaster a formidable one-two punch at the top of its order, which the recently improved Bees pitching staff will have to navigate carefully.
The series opens with a doubleheader on Friday, which are always tough to sweep, especially when looking at how evenly split the Bees have been in twin bills this season. After that, there are two more chances for New Britain to take down a team it should beat and continue its surprising climb towards the top of the division.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org