MANCHESTER -- The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have turned their season around, making a second-half run at the playoffs possible when even a month ago that would have sounded far-fetched.
More efforts like Wednesday’s 7-1 day game win over New Britain in front of 5,986 fans at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium will help keep the Fisher Cats on track. New Hampshire (43-47) hosts New Britain Thursday night at 7:05 and will head to Portland for five games in four days before the all-star break.
New Hampshire recovered from a doubleheader sweep at the hands of New Britain (44-45) Tuesday to put together a strong effort Wednesday with the bats and from pitcher Casey Lawrence (6-4), who did not allow an earned run in picking up his fourth win in five games.
“That’s what these guys do. It’s how we’ve been all year,” said New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham. “We surely were not good in April and May especially, but these guys have shown a lot of character all year long and there was no doubt they were going to come back and wash (Tuesday) off in the shower and get ready to play. And they did.”
Those rough first two months of the season have become a distant memory. The Fisher Cats have gone 25-12 over the past 37 games. According to Meacham, somewhere in the midst of an 11-game losing streak in the middle of May the team began to come together.
“In the middle of it, we could tell. (Guys were saying) it was the pitcher’s fault, no it was the hitters, no it was the defense. Pretty soon it was coaches and infielders and outfielders and pitchers,” Meacham said. “We had no one to blame anymore so they started pulling together and playing together. That’s the way it’s been the last month and a half. You hear it in the dugout, you hear it in the clubhouse. They just don’t care as much about themselves anymore as they do about the whole team winning.”
The top two teams in the Eastern Division make the playoffs. New Hampshire trails first-place Portland by 16½ games, but is only 9½ behind second-place Binghamton. Considering the turnaround and that the remaining 52 games represent a lot of baseball still to be played, a run at second place is not out of the question.
“There’s a lot of positivity here and guys really believe,” said center fielder Dalton Pompey. “We always talk about how it’s a couple games to .500 and knowing where we are in the standings and guys believe. It you believe, anything can happen.”
Getting to .500, which is now four wins away, is the goal right now and an example of how the team is seeking short-term goals that will bear long-term fruit.
“We just want to build on the small things and winning the small battles and the more you can do that the more chance you have to win the war,” said second baseman Jon Berti. “We have all the confidence in the world in each other and we stick together through thick and thin. I think it’s shown so far this year and it’s what has made this team so good. We knew we were too good a club to be playing the way we were early on in the year.”
According to Meacham, climbing back to .500 from the slow start to the season is something to be proud of and should only lead to more wins as momentum builds.
“From where we were to .500, you’ve got to be rolling pretty good,” he said. “If we can do that-which is a big if-then we can feel good about the last 40 games or so. Once you get rolling that good, it’s hard to stop the momentum.”
New Hampshire has some key series coming up after the break, including Portland and Binghamton as well as teams behind them in the standings such as Trenton and Reading .
“Baseball is an everyday thing so you never know what is going to happen,” Pompey said. “Teams that are really good or teams doing poorly, you never know who is going to show up that day so you have to keep the same mindset every game and give it our best and hope for the best.”
In Wednesday’s game, New Britain took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Eddie Rosario’s two-out hit to deep center appeared to confuse Pompey. After drifting toward the ball and then trying to hurry up and find its new trajectory, Pompey couldn’t get to it and the ball bounced off the wall. Rosario headed for third base and scored when shortstop Jorge Flores’ relay throw went wild for an error.
That was all New Britain would manage against Lawrence, however. Lawrence has gone 32.1 innings without allowing an earned run and has won four of his last five starts with a no decision in the mix.
New Hampshire took a 2-1 lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Michael Crouse and Jack Murphy walked to open the inning and Flores bunted them over. Pompey then drove a single into right field to score both runners.
The Fisher Cats extended to a 4-1 lead in the fourth when K.C. Hobson walked and Crouse crushed a pitch over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the season. Pompey added a solo home run to center in the fifth to push the lead to 5-1.Mike McDade doubled to open the sixth for New Hampshire and eventually scored on a two-out single to left from Murphy to make it 6-1. Flores followed with an RBI single to score Crouse (who had walked) and the Fisher Cats led 7-1. Randy Boone worked the final four outs on the mound for New Hampshire to close the win.
Ian Clark can be reached at email@example.com.