Monday, September 30, 2013

L.I. Ducks: Flock Rock To Second Straight Title; Navarrete Homers In Swan Song

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Patriots  4
Long Island Ducks Win Series 3-2
Long Island Ducks

Flock Rock II - The Long Island Ducks Are Back-To-Back Atlantic League Champions!  All-Time Ducks Great Leads The Way With Fourth Inning Blast.


Long Island fans can breathe easy now.  The Ducks successfully gained this year's title in their final opportunity.

On the evening of September 29, 2013, the Long Island Ducks Baseball Club captured their second straight Atlantic League championship, and third in their history.  It took five supremely classic  episodes to decide a winner.  But the Ducks ultimately beat the Patriots at their own game, slugging their way past Somerset via the long ball in each of their three victories.  Sunday's Game Five victory incidentally was the first road victory achieved by either team.  After winning the first two games at Bethpage Park, the Ducks entered TD Bank Ballpark with three opportunities with which to win one game.  The Somerset Patriots would not be defeated so easily, and stormed back with two extra-inning victories to tie the series at two apiece and force a decisive Game Five.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Ducks 2013 elected MVP, starting pitcher John Brownell climbed the hill on three days rest, and was opposed by Somerset Patriots hurler David Harden.  After two straight extra-inning games, with Game Four lasting sixteen, both bullpens were no doubt taxed, and in need of length from their respective starters.  John Brownell gave the Ducks just that.  He battled against two Somerset pitchers for eight innings, and then was lifted after walking the lead-off batter in the top of the ninth.  In all, he was charged with four Patriots runs on five hits, walked four batters and struck out three before being relived by closer Leo Rosales.

The Patriots jumped out to a 1-0 first inning lead on Yunesky Sanchez' RBI double.  The spotlight however, belonged to one player, Ray Navarrete, who played little during the post-season, but was tasked with being Sunday's designated hitter for Long Island.  The long time Duck and the club's all-time leader in most major offensive categories enjoyed a most providential swan swan.  The Ducks tied the game in the top of the fourth inning on Ramon Castro's RBI single.  Then with two on and two outs, Ray Navarrete cleared the bases with a home run - perhaps the most important home run he's ever hit, and certainly his last as a Ducks player.  Those who follow the team, and have done so for quite some time, know what an epic moment that was for Ray in particular, and the team as a whole.  That's Grade-A storybook stuff.  Ray's blast gave the Ducks a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom half of the fourth, Yunesky Sanchez continued haunting Long Island, hitting his second home run of the series to make it a 4-2 game.  Apparently, that didn't sit well with the Ducks, so they promptly scored two more runs in the top of the fifth.  Lew Ford led off the frame with a single, and scored on Bryant Nelson's double.  After Somerset's manager replaced starter David Harden with reliever Josh Lowey, Adam Bailey greeted him with another RBI single, scoring Nelson for a 6-2 Ducks lead.

The Patriots picked up a run in the sixth, and one more in the ninth, all off starter John Brownell, but no more.  Closer Leo Rosales entered the game and finished off the Patriots.  Upon collecting his third save of the series, Leo and his team mates came together for the on-field celebration of another Long Island title - make that back-to-back Ducks titles.

The Ducks completed their playoff run with a 6-2 record, which is a far cry from their 63-77 regular season finish.  Players play the game, but there is no denying that a General Manager is tasked with bring the right players into the fold.  Michael Pfaff did just that.  His key acquisitions to bolster the pitching had a huge impact on Long Island's playoff run and eventual championship.  After the departure of Dontrelle Willis from Long Island's rotation, pitchers Shaun Garceau, Bobby Blevins, Derek Blacksher, Josh Strawn, and outfielder Lew Ford were all traded for or signed in late August.
First year Ducks players, veteran Bill HallJosh Barfield and the younger Adam Bailey were all big season long contributors for Long Island.

For the Ducks, their third championship, with the first coming in 2004.  They have participated in the last three Atlantic League championship series, with perhaps their strongest team of the three runs losing the 2011 finals to the York Revolution.  For Ray Navarrete, he retires on top, as a Long Island baseball hero.


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