From the desk of: A QUACK FROM BROOKLYN
LONG ISLAND DUCKS: CLINCH 1st HALF TITLE!
The Ducks' victory over the York Revolution Monday, coupled with South Maryland's loss to Bridgeport means Long Island has clinched first place in the first half Liberty Division race. In League leading fashion, they assured themselves a spot in this year's post-season while also putting to rest last year's disappointment of not making the playoffs after an Atlantic League record six consecutive appearances from 2004 through 2009.
A pop-up just beyond second base was the last out the game and an inning Bubbie Buzachero couldn't help but put his stamp on. But when the popped-up ball landed softly in SS-Dan Lyon's glove, any anxiety of closing the game was now energy devoted toward celebration. All the jubilant Ducks assembled on York's infield grass between second and third base where they exchanged congratulatory five fives; low fives; hugs; and hand shakes.
But this win did not come with out a price. Starting pitcher Mike Lorre; having a dominant season; was pitching another strong game before he was pulled in the seventh inning with an undetermined injury. I later heard during the York broadcast he left due to a groin strain and should be fine. Hmmm; you know how that goes.
Mike Loree allowed a lead-off home run in the seventh inning. Two pitches later, he must have felt something and Coach Baez wasn't about to take any chances with his ace. He called upon his bullpen to finish the game for Long Island. In Mike Loree's six innings and two batters of work, he allowed the lone home run and a total of only two hits. Mike walked one batter and struck out six. The Ducks' clincher was Loree's League leading tenth victory of the season. He remains as the only Atlantic League pitcher with an ERA below 2.00, as he sports a 1.71 mark.
The Ducks clinched the division's first half race with a 37-21 record. They beat out the South Maryland Blue Crabs by five games as of Monday. Their 37 wins are tops in the League. The Freedom Division's top two teams; Lancaster Barnstormers and York Revolution; have 33 victories each; good for second overall in the Atlantic League thus far. This week (Friday) marks the end of the first half of the Atlantic League season.
Early season highlights include:
Kraig Binick batted over .400 for a substantial stretch beginning with the start of the season till right before suffering facial injuries that he's since recovered from. His batting average is still at a lofty .366 this season which ranks him second in the League.
As part of overall solid seasons, Matt Esquivel and Javier Colina presently round out the .300 hitters for Long Island. Matt is batting .314 and Colina is sporting a .311 average on the season. Matt Esquivel has seven home runs and twenty-eight RBI to go along with his .300 average.
John Rodriguez has been beset by a some nagging injuries. He missed a couple games at first with a sore thumb. He now seems to be battling a barking shoulder and has missed quite a few games lately. Before being side-tracked with ailments, he was leading the Atlantic League with 42 RBI. There's a new League leader (46) now, but John is still ranked fourth in the League despite missing time. JR House is third in the League with 43 and teammate Javier Colina has 41 to place three Ducks among the top seven RBI leaders.
Javier Colina and JR House are also creeping up on the League leaders in home runs. The Atlantic League leader has twelve. Colina is right behind with eleven and House has ten of his own.
The Ducks 359 runs scored lead the League.
On the mound, as mentioned, Mike Loree is quite the story this season. Mike was named Pitcher of the Month for June. He's the League Leader in wins and ERA and is also one strikeout short of being tied for the League lead in that category. As great a season he's having, somewhere in the back of Duck Fan's minds, the thought that maybe it's only just a matter of time before an MLB team steps in to purchase his contract has to be creeping into one's thinking. No?
While that would be very unfortunate in the Ducks' scheme of things, it's not today's reality. But in that event, the Ducks' pitching is still quite capable. Mike Parisi has been a fine Number Two guy in the rotation. He got roughed up a bit in his last outing. But has been nothing short of solid this season.
He's a League leader in strikeouts, and as I hinted, his ERA was inflated a bit due to his last outing.
After Loree and Parisi, it's fair to say the Ducks are lacking depth in the starting rotation. Shane Youman may still yet emerge and be effective in the second half. Joselo Diaz has had his problems on the hill this season.
But that's where the bullpen has come in so well this season. Guys like Jason Monti and Bob Zimmermann keep the opposition honest. But Coach Baez relies on Jeremy Hill; Ehren Wassermann for the stickiest situations. The Tennessee Thrilla' - Bubbie Buzachero closes things out for Long Island but not without stomach-churning excitement. He must be doing something right though, as he has a League leading 11 saves.
The Ducks continue their series tonight against the York Revolution, who are trying to overtake the Lancaster Barnstormers for first place in the Freedom Division before Friday. York is only 1/2 game behind Lancaster.
Check out the Long Island Ducks celebration picture in the locker room: LIDucks.com
Check out The Ducks Division Champs banner here: AtlanticLeague.com