Wednesday, September 25, 2013

L.I. Ducks: Atlantic League Championship Series Preview

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Somerset Patriots
Bethpage Park
Long Island, New York

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Here They Go Again;
The Quack Quest For Title Number Three.

Defense of Long Island's 2012 Atlantic League title begins tonight.  The Flock will either come away with back-to-back trophies, or resign themselves to their second finals loss in the last three years.  Two years ago, the 2011 Long Island Ducks were the top scoring team in the regular season, but suffered a crippling offensive short circuit in the finals against the York Revolution.  Last season, the Ducks rebounded to capture their second flag in franchise history.  This year, they will face-off against the Somerset Patriots, who are looking to add to their league record five championships, but will be attempting to win their first in the post-Sparky Lyle era.

For the third consecutive Finals, the Ducks will open the series at Bethpage Park.  Games Three, Four and Five if necessary, will be played at Somerset's TD Bank Park.  Ducks ace John Brownell will climb the hill in Game One for Long Island, and will be opposed by the Patriots' Josh Lowey.  Brownell is fresh off a twelve strikeout performance against Southern Maryland in the Liberty Division series, and placed second in the league this season with 133 strikeouts.  He finished the regular season with a 9-10 record and 3.89 ERA.  Josh Lowey led the Atlantic League with a 2.89 ERA, placed third behind Brownell in strikeouts, and placed third overall with fourteen victories.

Game Two will tentatively feature key acquisition Shaun Garceau for the Ducks, opposing Somerset's Roy Merritt, and in Game Three, Bob Zimmermann is slated to face the Patriots Erik Arnesen.

There is a reason Somerset won ninety games this past season under first year manager Brett Jodie.  In fact, Somerset's was the second best season ever recorded in A.L. history.  Indeed, Sugar Land took the regular season crown with an A.L. record ninety-five victories.  Ultimately however, it was the Freedom Division Wild Card Patriots who swept the Skeeters during the opening round of playoffs in three straight.  The Patriots are most certainly an organization that knows their way around championships, and are favored in this year's series.

The Patriots held a distinct regular season advantage in pitching.  They finished second in the league with a team 1.28 WHiP, and second with a 3.61 team ERA as well.  Long Island was sixth with a 1.44 WHiP, and seventh in the circuit with a 4.51 team ERA.

Reliever Jon Hunton, who helped Long Island win a title last year, closed games for the Patriots this season.  In fact, he led the Atlantic League with thirty-seven saves.  Leo Rosales saved eighteen games for the Ducks and sported a 2.35 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched, and fanned forty-five batters.

Offensively, the Patriots excelled as well, leading the circuit with a team .277 batting average.  The Ducks ranked fifth with a .261 mark.  Somerset also out-slugged the rest of the league with a .415 team mark, while the Ducks slugged at a rate of .392, or sixth place.  Somerset boasted the top team OBP with a .356 mark, and the Ducks finished last.  Over the course of the season, Somerset scored 139 more runs than Long Island, but only hit seven more home runs than the Ducks.

Jake Fox led the Patriots this past season with a .310 batting average, while Josh Brodin's .307 average paced the Ducks.  Fox also finished second in the circuit with twenty-five home runs, and third with eighty-two runs batted in.  His team mate Corey Smith finished sixth in the circuit with twenty home runs, and second with eighty-four RBI.  For Long Island, Bill Hall topped the Ducks with sixteen home runs and Adam Bailey followed with fifteen.  Bryant Nelson led the team with seventy-one RBI, while Bill Hall contributed sixty-three.

Until affecting a three game sweep of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Liberty Division finals, the Long Island Ducks struggled every step of the way this season.  But GM Michael Pfaff made strong moves to bolster the team's pitching late in the season.  Outfielder Lew Ford missed last year's finals while spending time with the Orioles organization, but is sure to add much needed punch and experience this time around.  Dan Lyons, who was so instrumental in last year's title run, returns for an opportunity to win a second straight trophy.  Joining him from last season are, Bryant Nelson, Kraig Binick, Game One pitcher John Brownell, Bob Zimmermann, Jared Lansford, Josh Lansford and Leo Rosales.  And of course, this will be long time Ducks great, Ray Navarrete's last hurrah.  Earlier this season, Long Island's all-time leader in most offensive categories announced he would be retiring at season's end.  For him to raise another trophy on the way out.....

Let the games begin!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Say what you feel. The worse comment you can make is the one you do not make.