Sugar Land Skeeters
* * 2016 * *
ATLANTIC LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
Skeeters win series 3-0
I - SLS 7; LID 1
II - SLS 2; LID 0
III - SLS 5; LID 3
Long Island Ducks: Back to the Old Drawing Board.
As fate would have it, pitching turned out not being Long Island's phantom menace.
They entered the season very well armed with John Brownell, Darin Downs, Jack Snodgrass, Mark Blackmar, Bobby Blevins, and spot starter Bruce Kern manning the rotation. On the strength of their depth, the Ducks nudged their way atop the Liberty Division to clinch a first-half title.
By July, however, the contracts of all but Brownell and Blevins had been purchased away, and the resulting net affects would be considerable. Long Island's second-half 32-38 record, and last place finish says it all.
With the regular season winding down, pitchers Nick Struck, Matt Larkins, Jarrett Leverett, and Daniel Hererra were at least providing fans a sense of renewed hope for a successful playoff run.
Losing games One and Two of the Liberty Division series on the road at Somerset, then storming back to win three straight at Bethpage Ballpark, and deposing last year's champion was yet another reason for fans believing they could still pull off the improbable.
Then you look back at Game One of the championship series against the Sugar Land Skeeters and think, okay, the Ducks were rolling the dice by starting Bobby Blevins. And yes, that scenario proved predictably problematic for the Long Islanders.
Blevins is coming off a terrible season, his worst as a Duck, ending with a 2-12 record 5.51 ERA, while allowing 154 hits in 127.1 innings pitched. He wrapped up the regular season losing five of his last six games, surrendering 23 runs on 56 hits in 39.1 innings pitched. The series opener at Sugar Land offered much of the same. Bobby Blevins was relieved after just 4 innings of work, but not before surrendering six runs on nine hits.
But what choice did the Ducks have ... really? John Brownell pitched games One and Five against the Patriots, and thus became unavailable against Sugar Land during games One through Three.
After dropping the first two games of the Atlantic League finals in Sugar Land (again), the Ducks needed yet another improbable three game comeback at the Pond.
Their run instead promptly ended, with Sugar Land completing the sweep with a 5-3 victory in Game Three at Bethpage Ballpark to capture their first ever league title.
Offensively speaking, Long Island's bats short circuited much in the same manner the 2011 Ducks' did during the 2011 finals against York. That year's most potent offense of the league fell completely and ponderously silent during the finals.
In three games against the Skeeters, the Ducks hit a mere 19 for 95, for a .200 team average, were outscored 14-4, and shut out once. Meanwhile, Coach Baez stuck with a regular line-up. But his lead-off hitter only went 2 for 11, while the middle three, four, and five hitters, combined on just one RBI.
Neither Mark Blackmar nor Jack Snodgrass could have prevented that.