LONG ISLAND DUCKS: THE POND Celebrates End of a Great Regular Season. Reasons to be Proud Abound.
Mike Loree wins pitching Triple Crown.
Kraig Binnick wins Atlantic League Batting Title.
Ducks claim both half Division Titles.
Ducks end season with League's best record.
Long Island leads League in attendance.
Ducks Win Both Half Titles for First Time in Team's History.
After missing out on the playoffs last year, the Long Island Ducks spent all season sending one long continuous message to the League; - They would not be denied a second consecutive time. They made their case loud and clear by mounting a ferocious return to post-season play finishing the 2011 campaign thirty-one games above the .500 mark and amassing the League's best record.
The Long Island Ducks concluded their best regular season ever at 4:30 Sunday afternoon with one final win, and taking the regular season ending series against the surging Bridgeport Bluefish. And with that final win of the season, they clinched the Liberty Division's second-half title; just as they clinched the first-half title. It's the first time in their history they have won both pennants in the same season. Bridgeport came on strong this season; fulfilling their potential perhaps a little too late for the Division race. However they did pull to within one game of the Ducks and with a win Sunday and could have forced a one game playoff to decide the second half Liberty Division Title.
The Ducks not only cliched both halves of the Atlantic League season, they clinched the League's overall best record at 78-47; making it the first time they ever won the League's top mark. They were the first team to reach fifty wins; sixty wins; and seventy wins this season. Even though suffering through a late season malaise, they dominated the Atlantic League from practically from start to finish. Only a brief trading of first place with South Maryland in the first half, and a fleeting little taste of second place served up by Bridgeport in August, prevented Long Island from leading wire to wire
The Bethpage Park Demolition Crew short-circuited scoreboards all over the Atlantic League this season. In addition to their other regular season accomplishments, they also led the Atlantic League in runs scored.
The third; fourth; fifth; and sixth ranked League leaders in RBI were Long Island Ducks. Javier Colina led that list of Ducks and also held the team lead with 90 RBI. J.R. House and John Rodriguez finished with 81 RBI each. John Rodriguez missed games with injuries on three separate occasions this season, and recently missed a month as the schedule wound down. Somehow he held the RBI lead two different times this year and still managed to finish among the RBI leaders. Having him healthy and hitting fourth in the line-up come playoff time this Wednesday is imperative to the Ducks' potent attack. Upon his return Sunday for the season finale, he went 4 for 4 to demonstrate why he's so necessary to ensure an edge in team slugging come playoff time.
Then on the RBI list at number six is, Ducks' legend; Ray Navarrete; who finished with 79 RBI this season. Ray Navarrete also finished with 27 home runs, which ranked him second in the League and just one home run behind the League leader. Javier Colina placed third with 25 home runs.
Ray Navarrete; the long time crowd favorite; spent a season helping the Ducks dominate, but also padding a few career milestones and setting more records. Earlier this season, he became the Ducks All-Time runs scored leader and the franchise's All-Time career leader in hits. Ray Navarrete is also the franchise's All-Time leader in home runs and RBI as well. He holds Ducks' single season records for hits; RBI; games played; and doubles. Ray also holds Long Island's single game records for most home runs and RBI.
Leading all Atlantic League hitters in batting average this season was none other than Long Island Duck; Kraig Binnick. It was an achievement he seemed destined to accomplish since the season began. Before taking a ball to the face on a play at second base early this season, he maintained an average above the .400 level. After his return to action, he tailed off a bit; slipped out of the League lead; then rebounded to finish and win the season title with a .343 batting average. Matt Esquivel placed third with a .328 batting average.
With a ball in his hand, Mike Loree was the Atlantic League's undisputed King of the Hill this season. He dominated every pitching Triple Crown category; despite spending time in Atloona this season after being purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates system. But he's back for Long Island's playoff run. And that's probably the most welcome news of all. Before he left the team, the Ducks were winning games at a +70% clip. They slipped afterwards and finished the season with a .624 winning percentage.
During the season Mike Loree posted a 14-5 won/loss record; which led the League. And with 14 wins he is also now the new holder of the Ducks All-Time single season wins record. He led the League with 131 strikeouts; while walking only 28 batters over 123 innings pitched. And Mike Loree's minuscule 1.98 ERA was also the League's best mark by a wide margin. The League's next best ERA was a 3.33 mark.
By August, there were gaping holes in the starting rotation and the season was taking on water fast. There were matters to ponder like; were the contract purchases of Lenny DiNardo first; Mike Parisi; then Shane Youman; and ultimately Mike Loree; going to torpedo one of the best Ducks' seasons ever and stop the Ducks quest for a Championship cold in their webbed tracks?
Yes; admit it; you thought about it.
The very savvy; and timely acquisition of starting pitcher, Josh Banks, was desperately needed to get a stopper (a losing streak stopper) back in the rotation. And now with the return of Mike Loree, the Ducks starting rotation looks poised again to get through two rounds of playoffs. With the healthy return of Ehren Wassermann, their deep bullpen; which has been nothing short of outstanding this season; should round out a very effective pitching staff well prepared for the playoffs.
And lastly, the Ducks were the undisputed kings in attendance this season which included celebrating the 600th sellout of Bethpage Park and welcoming the Five-Millionth fan to walk through the gates over the last 12 seasons.
The Atlantic League decided the Bridgeport Bluefish and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs will play a one-game Wild Card Playoff on Tuesday; with the winner earning the right to play Long Island in the Liberty Division round.
Last year's Champion, the York Revolution and the Lancaster Barnstormers will square off in the Freedom Division's first round. Lancaster was the only other Atlantic League team to surpass 70 wins this season. Lancaster was the Freedom Division first half Champs. York won the back stretch.
The full slate of playoffs begin Wednesday evening.
Articles; Winning Pics; and Vids
ATLANTIC LEAGUE ~ WILD CARD PLAYOFF GAME
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
The Ballpark at Harbor Yard
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Win
Blue Crabs 9