Tuesday, September 29, 2015

L.I. Ducks: Somerset Pitching Subdues Flock; Patriots Gain Trip to Finals

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Patriots Lock Out Ducks

Patriots win Liberty Division Playoff Series over Ducks 3-2
I - SOM 5; LID 3
II - LID 5; SOM 4
III - LID 9; SOM 4
IV - SOM 4; LID 0
V - SOM 4; LID 0

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Flock yield the high ground; Offense falls silent as team gets whitewashed in consective games; Staff ace John Brownell ineffective in both series starts.

Somerset Patriots will face Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 
in Atlantic League championship series.

A scan over the regular season stats suggested Long Island entered the recently concluded Liberty Division playoff with a distinct offensive edge over the Patriots.  Meanwhile, Somerset's pitching rated first in the league, only slightly above that of Long Island's.

Based on that, one could argue games One through Three played out somewhat accordingly.

The Ducks and Patriots split the opening games at Bethpage Ballpark.  Long Island then gained the high ground with victory in Game Three at Somerset.

They outscored the Patriots by a 17-13 margin to that point, improved their overall season record at TD Bank Ballpark to 8-4, and afforded themselves two opportunities with which to win one game.   Moreover, their ace would be available to pitch on regular rest in the event of a decisive Game Five.
That said, the Ducks appeared supremely poised to eliminate their division rival and advance towards the finals.  Or, so it seemed...

Regrettably for Ducks fans, they fanned at the finish.  Like thieves in the night, Long Island's offense went missing, again.  Their demise was akin to the events of 2011, when after steamrolling the regular season competition with the league's most potent offense, the Ducks' offense suddenly and inexplicably short-circuited during the championship series against York.

But with regards to this now concluded series, baseball's time tested adage held true, in that good pitching stops good hitting.  In the end, Somerset's top rated pitching staff overcame Long Island's top rated offense.

For Patriots fans, their games Four and Five starters were particularly marvelous sights to behold.

In Game Four, starter Will Oliver silenced Ducks bats with a 3-hit complete game shutout.  He faced 30 batters, retired the side in order in 6 of 9 innings pitched, walked one and struck out a pair.  He threw 118 pitches with 80 (67%) going for strikes.

In the decisive Game Five, John Brownell faced off against Somerset's Roy Merritt in a rematch of the series opener.

Merritt was solid in Game One, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) over 6 innings pitched to earn the decision over John Brownell.  In Sunday's clincher, Merritt matched stable mate Will Oliver's effort with his own 4-hit complete game shutout.  He faced 29 batters, walked 1, fanned 3, totaled 111 pitches with 73 going for strikes, and above all, claimed yet another decision over Brownell.

That said, the Patriots had their way with Long Island's ace, again.

In Game One, Somerset scored 5 times off Brownell with 7 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings.  He faced 26 batters, struck out 2, and threw 102 pitches with 66 (64%) going for strikes.  On Sunday, Somerset scored another 4 earned runs on 9 hits and a walk off Brownell, this time in just 4.2 innings pitched.

Less forgiving Ducks fans might point at John Brownell's ineffectiveness as the main reason why their season ended in Somerset.  After all, their ace did not perform like one, and I believe there is something to that.  Teams need their best players to perform when the stakes are high.  In two starts, however, John Brownell rolled craps.

More forgiving fans might factor the amount of talent lost to other leagues and affiliated baseball, compromised season and an untimely exit from the post-season.

After missing the playoffs last season, I think GM Michael Pfaff did an exception job getting the Ducks back in title contention.   They posted the league's second best record, and surpassed 80 victories for only the second time in their history.  With the inordinate number of roster raids that took place this season, they just missed it this year, by "that" much.


Liberty Division Champion
Somerset Patriots
Freedom Division Champion
Southern Maryland
Blue Crabs

This will be the Somerset Patriots 10th championship series appearance in their 18 year history.   They've captured 5 league titles, with their last two coming in back-to-back fashion during the 2008-2009 seasons.

Southern Maryland lost their lone championship appearance back in 2009 to Somerset.  They're back in the playoffs after a one year absence.

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