Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Atlantic League: Ducks Migrating to Texas for Championship Series Opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Long Island Ducks
Sugar Land Skeeters
The Lone Star State

Long Island Ducks: Flock overcome two game deficit with three straight victories at Bethpage Ballpark; eliminate former champion Somerset Patriots to capture Liberty Division crown.

Sunday's game marked the year's 25th clash between the Long Island Ducks and Somerset Patriots.

The league's two most successful franchises split their regular season series right down the middle with ten victories apiece.  Entering Game Five of the Liberty Divison series, the playoffs had played out no differently with the Patriots sweeping two games in Bridgewater, New Jersey, then with the Ducks regrouping and taking games Three and Four at Bethpage Ballpark.

In other words, through five months worth of regular and post-season baseball, nothing had really changed.

But there sat Long Island's 500 lbs. gorilla in the locker room still pointing to last year's Game Five whitewash at the hands of these very same Somerset Patriots.

As if Long Islanders need reminding ... Somerset captured last year's Liberty Division title with a 4-0 shutout in Game Five over John Brownell and the Ducks en route to winning their sixth Atlantic League championship.

The disappointment no doubt remained fresh on the minds of many of these Long Island Ducks, but perhaps none more so than John Brownell who pitched poorly that day, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings pitched, from which the Ducks could not recover.

One year later, John Brownell and the Flock gain sweet redemption.  The Ducks completed their unlikely comeback ... all the way back ... winning Game Five and capturing the Liberty Division crown with a 5-1 victory over the Patriots.

First-Half Champions
Liberty Division Champions
Ducks win series over Patriots 3-2
I - SOM 3; LID 2*
II - SOM 10; LID 0
III - LID 7; SOM 1
IV - LID 2; SOM 0
V - LID 5; SOM 2
*11 innings

John Brownell, the Ducks' all time ace, pitched 5.2 masterful innings during Sunday's series finale, retiring the first 12 Somerset batters he faced.  He surrendered a lone run in the fifth, otherwise allowed just three hits, no walks, and fanned two batters before exiting on the winning side.

Coach Baez then handed the ball off to the bullpen, whom continued pitching 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing a pair of hits and a walk, while fanning six batters to close out the victory.

Long Island jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back.  Eight Ducks hitters stepped in against Patriots starter Will Oliver, immediately turning Somerset score keeper pages into scribble.  Many little details needed squeezing into those little boxes:
  • a lead-off single, a catcher's interference, a fielder's choice, two wild pitches, a double, a strikeout, yet another wild pitch, another double, and one last base hit all led to Somerset's early deficit.

Will Oliver's control failed him again in the second, as Anthony Vega scored on yet another wild pitch, giving the Ducks a 5-0 lead.

Somerset finally scored off John Brownell in the fifth, on second baseman Eric Farris' sacrifice fly to center scoring first baseman Bryan LaHair, but managed little else.

Long Island now faces the Freedom Division champion Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League championship series


Games One and Two will be played at Sugar Land, while games Three through Five (if necessary) are to be played at Bethpage Ballpark.

Sugar Land captured the second-half Freedom Division pennant with a 39-31 record, two games ahead of the first half champion York Revolution, whom in turn were then swept in the Freedom Division final by Sugar Land.

The Skeeters finished the regular season with an overall 74-66 record.  Now in their fifth year of existence, they'll be making their second Atlantic League finals appearance.  They first advanced in 2014, but were swept by the Lancaster Barnstormers.

Long Island concluded their regular season with a 72-68 record - the worst of the final four.  They are nevertheless attempting to win their fourth league title, and their first since capturing back-to-back titles during the 2012-13 seasons.

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