Sunday, September 29, 2013

L.I. Ducks: Teams Battle Sixteen Innings; Somerset Patriots Force Game Five

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Series Tied 2-2
I - Ducks 4; Patriots 3
II - Ducks 3; Patriots 2
III - Patriots 5; Ducks 4*
IV - Patriots 2; Ducks 1*
New Jersey

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: The Flock Suffer Their Second Straight Extra-Inning Defeat To Patriots.  A Winner Take All Game Five Awaits.

  • Ducks Leave Thirteen Runners On Base.
  • Failure To Execute Sacrifice Bunt, And Advance Potential Go-Ahead Runner In Fifteenth Inning Looms Large.
  • Struggling Reliever Erick Threets Sets Up Final Run; Hits Lead-Off Batter With Pitch In Final Frame.

If Friday night's extra-inning Game Three slugfest didn't excite the senses, Saturday's game may have caused cardiac arrest for those in attendance at Game Four.  Through three games and the last sixteen innings, the 2013 Atlantic League championship series is already a classic.

With Long Island holding a 2-1 series lead, they gave the ball to Bobby Blevins to start Game Four.  He was opposed by Somerset starter Graham Taylor.  Blevins was attempting to clinch a title for the Ducks, while Taylor was pitching to stave off Somerset's elimination.  Both dueled for eight complete innings.  Bobby Blevins surrendered a single run, but unfortunately it was the game tying run in the seventh.  Otherwise he only allowed five hits, walked no batters and struck out four before exiting the game to a no-decision.  The Ducks took a 1-0 lead off Graham Taylor in the third when an error by third baseman Corey Smith opened the door to an unearned run.  Taylor allowed just three hits, walked one batter and struck out three before likewise departing to a no-decision.

Reliever Jason Lowey pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Patriots.  Jared Lansford answered back with a scoreless bottom half of the ninth inning for the Ducks.

For the second consecutive night, the Atlantic League championship series was sent into extra-innings.  The teams remained knotted at one through the thirteenth inning, then through fourteen.  Four and a half hours after Taylor Graham's opening pitch of the game, the teams were still playing in the fifteenth inning.

Both managers still had their respective closers in reserve.  For the Ducks, Leo Rosales picked up saves in games One and Two, then did not appear in Game Three's loss to the Patriots.  Jon Hunton pitched in Friday night's thriller, and like Rosales, warmed up repeatedly throughout the late innings.  Before the game boiled down to closers however, Coach Baez was quickly running out of options, and was faced with bringing in beleaguered reliever Erick Threets into the game, if not in the bottom of the fifteenth, then soon.

The bottom of the fifteenth was not without controversy.  A close play at first base was called out against the Patriots Jonny Tucker.  The Somerset dugout protested in concert.  The call was overturned when the umpires discussed the play further, but not before one Patriots player, from within the dugout, was ejected from the game.  Coach Baez became livid over the reversal, and vociferously shared his opinions with the first base umpire, albeit to no avail.  Once order returned, Kevin Baez officially placed the game under protest.  Coach was also forced to bring Erick Threets into the game, who finally closed out the fifteenth inning.

Bryant Nelson led-off the top of the sixteenth with a hit, and Bill Hall then drew a walk.  With runners on first and second and no outs, Somerset opted to bring in starting pitcher Roy Merritt to face Adam Bailey, who failed to lay down a bunt on two attempts, then struck out swinging.  With another change, first baseman Ryan Strieby stepped in to face Somerset's eighth pitcher of the night, and beat out an infield hit down the third base line to load the bases.  With the Ducks still needing a big hit or just a fly ball, Ralph Enriquez weakly bounced into a force out at home, scored 1-2 for the second out.  Kraig Binick then lined out to right fielder Cory Aldridge for out number three.

Erik Threets climbed the hill in the bottom of the sixteenth and immediately hit Cory Aldridge with a pitch.  That was the end of Threets.  Coach Baez summoned Derek Blacksher from the bullpen.  Next in, Bobby Stevens bunted Aldridge to second.  First baseman Jeff Baisley then singled to left to put runners on the corners with one out.  The Ducks elected to intentionally walk the next batter to load the bases for Patriots shortstop Angel Sanchez.  On a 3-1 pitch, Sanchez fouled off a pitch to run the count full.  On the next pitch, Sanchez deposited a base hit in front of right fielder Adam Baily for the game winning RBI and a 2-1 Patriots win.

The Atlantic League championship will now be decided by one game - Game Five, scheduled for late Sunday afternoon at TD Bank Ballpark.


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