Liberty Division Champions!
LONG ISLAND DUCKS:
Eliminate Wild Card Team.
Next Stop; Atlantic League Championship Series.
Season Ends With Dual Division Titles ~ BTB
It's Playoff Time ~ BTB
Ducks Take Game One ~ BTB
Game Two Final; Off to Southern Maryland ~ BTB
Aiming to Clinch Sunday ~ BTB
Ducks defeat Blue Crabs in Game Four; Win Series 3-1.
The Ducks' offense scratched and clawed as best as their little Webbed Spikes could after their bullpen was rushed into near immediate action Sunday. The Ducks were pressed for a response to Southern Maryland's alarmingly early onslaught against starter; Valerio De Los Santos; in Game Four of the Liberty Division Championship Series.
The day was looking promising when Kinard Jones led off the game with a triple and scored, giving the Ducks a 1-0 first inning lead. But in their first turn at bat, Southern Maryland sent De Los Santos to the showers before he was able to complete a full inning of work. After just 0.2 inning(s); four hits; a walk; and allowing four runs, Coach Baez was forced to remove his starter because this is not June when you can just let your starter correct himself on the fly. At this time of year, time is of the essence and getting outs from your pitcher is paramount. So deservedly, give Coach Baez heaps of credit for managing Sunday's outcome and maneuvering six pitchers throughout the game.
Four consecutive singles by Freddy Thon; Danny Lyons; Kinard Jones; and Ray Navarrete plated two more runs for Long Island in the top of the second. That made it a 4-3 game. However, just removing Valerio De Los Santos from the game didn't alleviate Long Island's problems. The Blue Crabs continued their offensive against the next Ducks' pitcher; Chris McCoy. The Crabs matched Long Island with another two runs in their half of the second making it a 6-3 game.
The Ducked remained quiet over the next three innings. But in the bottom of the fifth, Southern Maryland tacked on another run against Chris McCoy to make the game 7-3; Crabs.
In the sixth, Blue Crabs' starter; Nick Green; prepared his exit from the game. He faced four batters. Matt Padgett singled; Matt Esquivel walked; and Freddie Thon singled to load the bases. Dan Lyons worked out a walk to force in a run, and Nick Green was outta there. Another run scored when Kinard Jones drew yet another walk with the bases loaded. And Ray Navarrete then bounced into a double play with the third run of the inning scoring on the play.
The Ducks were within one run again in a 7-6 game after six completed innings. In the next frame, the teams traded runs again. J.R. House hit a solo home run for the Ducks. But the Crabs still maintained an 8-7 lead after scoring against Tyler Walker.
But that's all they'd get; the Crabs that is. The Ducks bullpen combined on a marvelous job keeping Southern Maryland sedated after their opening outburst. Jason Monti; Tyler Walker; Bubbie Buzachero; and Jon Hunton combined on 4.1 innings pitched; one run; one hit; four walks; and six strikeouts. Tyler Walker allowed the last run Southern Maryland would score. Bubbie Buzachero was responsible for three of those walks allowed and which directly leads to the reason why it was up to the newly anointed Long Island closer; Jon Hunton; to ultimately shut the door on the Blue Crabs. He struck out the last two batters of the game to end the night in grand style for the visiting Long Islanders.
Bubbie Buzachero, amusingly gets credited with Sunday's win. Jon Hunton earned the save.
Indeed, it was the bullpen that kept the Ducks around long enough; enabling a comeback Long Island persistently mounted throughout this game. They were still down 8-7 after seven. But in the eighth inning, Mr. Long Island Duck himself; Ray Navarrete; continued his Swan Song of sorts, by launching a home run to tie the baseball game at eight runs apiece. The All-Time Ducks' Home Run King may have never hit one bigger than this. That remains to be discussed. But coming when it did, where it did, there's nothing quite like making another team's crowd go silent. It's the golden silence of rounding second base in the course of the home run trot, and the only audible noises are coming from your team mates in the dugout. That's sweet.
And like a dominoes display falling perfectly as designed, the latest in a long line of Duck heroes this season; Freddie Thon; stepped in and finished off Southern Maryland with a two-out RBI double to score Erick Monzon (singled) with the go ahead; the game winning; and the Liberty Division Championship winning run.
Many team members have stated this Ducks team is a very tightly-knit group with a genuine affinity for one another. And so it was, together as a team, they just didn't save themselves from having to play a decisive Game Five on the road by winning Sunday afternoon. The Long Island Ducks mounted a comeback that laid to rest some second guessing; like deciding to potentially play three games on the road with just two games at home. And choosing to do so when the Ducks have gone 0-7 since their last playoff win on the road; not to mention not playing very well in Southern Maryland this season either. I questioned that. The Long Island Ducks answered by winning two straight in Southern Maryland after splitting the first two games in Long Island.
They are moving on because offensively, the Ducks are relentless. Sunday's win is a classic example of that. But pitching was everything for Long Island in their three wins this series. Mike Loree did his part by winning Game One. And no, Josh Banks didn't have the success all parties concerned were looking for. But it presented another moment to be seized upon. That came in Game Three via Bob Zimmermann who pitched six, really superb innings Saturday night. He allowed the Blue Crabs only one unearned run off three hits, while striking out six. And then of course, Long Island's bullpen work in Game Four Sunday was, as it has been all season long; solid as a rock.
And now the Ducks get what the Ducks' players want; a chance to win a title..., Together.