NEW BRITAIN – Just two weeks removed from being the hottest team in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, the New Britain Bees have come back down to Earth with just over a month to go in the regular season. The Bees had been on a steady incline up the standings, but three straight losses have sent them right back down the ladder and fighting to create separation in a six-team race for second place.
Bees manager Donnie McKillop believes timely offense and elite defense – two things that charged the team’s late-June resurgence – have evaded them over the past week.
“We’ve had some good situations the past few days, but we haven’t capitalized on them,” McKillop said. “We had runners in scoring position, but we definitely have been leaving some runs out there.”
Despite still being one of the cleanest teams in the field to this point, New Britain has relinquished the top two spots in terms of fielding percentage, something McKillop has taken note of as well.
“We’re doing OK defensively,” he said. “I think we’ve been a little bit mortal. We’ve just got to get buzzing again.”
The Bees had far from a quiet night at the plate on Thursday when they hosted the Norwich Sea Unicorns. A two-run home run from shortstop Zach Donahue, nine hits, eight walks and a ninth-inning rally weren’t enough to catch the Unicorns that night, however. New Britain left nine runners on base in the 7-6 loss, seven of which were in scoring position.
Situations like that are where McKillop is looking for his team to capitalize and take control of a ballgame. The Bees finally found their spark in the ninth inning on Thursday, but it was too little too late.
C.J. Brito-Trinidad and Colton Shaw singled to get two men on with one out in the ninth. McKillop and the Bees used one of best chips in the FCBL off the bench, pinch running the league’s stolen base leader Joel Lara for Brito-Trinidad on second base and Mike Torniero for Shaw on first base. Outfielder Mark Coley came up next and tagged a single into left field to score Lara for the Bees’ final run of the night. That RBI also capped off a solid night for Coley filling in for Lara in center field.
Coley tallied two walks, a hit-by-pitch, an RBI and six putouts in center field on Thursday.
McKillop isn’t ready to panic after three-straight losses. He still feels his team is in a good place and playing decent baseball.
“Things just have to start rolling our way with some momentum,” he said. “You can feel it. When we’re on and buzzing everything feels good. We’ll be back.”
The Vermont Lake Monsters have firm control of the top-seed in the FCBL. The next six teams in the league are all within arm’s reach of each other, however. The Brockton Rox sit at the bottom a few games removed from this logjam in the middle of the standings.
There is still have plenty of time to make up ground as the Bees already played their final game against the Lake Monsters this summer, and only have four remaining games against the Rox. Following the weekend, New Britain will have 23 games to go before the postseason kicks off.
The Bees are currently in a stretch where they’ll face the Sea Unicorns six times in seven games. Depending on if New Britain can tighten up some screws over the next week it could go a long way in the deciding trajectory of both teams the rest of the way. McKillop is confident with how his pitching is lining up after Nolan Morr and T.J. Wainwright were able to make it through eight innings on Thursday. The Bees have a top-two pitching staff in the league in ERA and will need to lean on them the rest of the way to keep playoff hopes alive in New Britain.