Divisional Semi Final Series
Ducks Lead Series 2-1
I - Ducks 4; Blue Crabs 3
II - Ducks 3; Blue Crabs 1
III - Blue Crabs 7; Ducks 5
IV - TONIGHT
LONG ISLAND DUCKS: It's A Series Now.
Southern Maryland Claws Back For Game Three Win.
The Ducks seemed on to something. The benefit to clinching a first half division title is having the option whether to start the opening round of the playoffs on the road or at home. Long Island chose to play the first two games of their series against the Blue Crabs in Waldorf, Maryland. Wednesday evening, that started to pay off. Long Island took Game One behind a strong pitching effort by Randy Kiesler. In Game Two, Long Island topped Southern Maryland again, this time behind a brilliant effort by Ducks starter Matt May, who pitched eight innings and struck out ten Blue Crabs.
Having swept the two games in Southern Maryland, the Ducks returned to The Pond Friday evening for the first of three chances to clinch the series at home. One more victory in this best three of five series punches Long Island's ticket back to their second consecutive championship round appearance.
On the mound Friday evening for the Ducks was the reliable Bob Zimmermann. Opposing him was Southern Maryland's Gabriel Hernandez.
In Game Three, the home team struck first. Making his first appearance of the series, Ducks left fielder Matt Esquivel connected on an absolute bomb to left, giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The score remained 1-0 through four innings. Both pitchers allowed only two hits apiece to that point. Both hurlers struggled with control however, issuing four base on balls each.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Blue Crabs had Bob Zimmermann in major trouble. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Very thick and moist air left over from earlier rain storms which rolled through the area, perhaps prevented Jesse Gutierrez blast from sailing over the wall for a grand slam. Instead, the Blue Crabs first baseman settled for a game tying sac-fly. Bob Zimmermann reached back and struck out the following batter. Then a stellar scoop by Brandon Sin at first base finished of the Blue Crabs rally, and kept damage limited to a single run.
In the home fifth, Long Island went ahead again on Ray Navarrete's rbi double. When Brandon Sing followed with a single, Ray Navarrete was nailed at the plate trying to score. Southern Maryland likewise limited Long Island's threat to just a single run scored. But the Ducks were up a again in a 2-1 game after five.
After five laborious innings, a not so sharp Bob Zimmermann gave way to the bullpen. Chris Hayes pitched a scoreless sixth inning. But in the top of the seventh inning, the Blue Crabs had their way with Eric Niesen and Jared Lansford. Five hits, two hit batters, a walk, and four runs later, Southern Maryland held a 5-2 lead. A series of Brandon Sing errors helped the Blue Crabs along as well.
In the eighth inning, the Blue Claws piled on with another pair of runs to make it a 7-2 game. But in the bottom half of the frame, the Ducks decided not to go quietly. Timo Perez singled, driving in two runs, making the game a 7-4 affair.
Into the ninth they went. Coach Baez called upon his seventh pitcher of the evening; Connor Graham; who retired the side in order. In the Ducks last licks, they managed to score one run on a wild pitch, but nothing more. The Ducks fell by a 7-5 score in Game Three. And so..., the Ducks first opportunity to clinch this series at home is lost. They have two more opportunities to win one game.
The last time the Long Island Ducks clinched a playoff series at home came back in 2004; their Atlantic League championship winning season. They lost in last season's Finals to the York Revolution who went on to win their second consecutive title. The Lancaster Barnstormers currently own a 2-0 lead over York in the Freedom Division semi final series.