Wednesday, September 18, 2013

L.I.Ducks: Let The Games Begin; First Round Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Liberty Division Series
Game One
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
Bethpage Park
Long Island, New York

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Reinforced Pitching Staff Set To Face Playoff Rival Southern Maryland In Round One.

Long Island's defense of their 2012 Atlantic League title begins, now.  But the Ducks weren't sure if they would get that chance, as the recently concluded regular season was a long rough road for last year's champs.  They weren't nearly the offensive juggernaut they were in 2012, and stumbled down the stretch with a 1-8 record before ultimately defeating the Somerset Patriots last Saturday evening, and thereby eliminating the Bridgeport Bluefish to capture the second half Liberty Division flag. 

The Long Island Ducks qualified for their third straight post-season with a 33-37 second half record, and finished below .500 for the season with an overall 63-77 mark.  This is the club's ninth playoff appearance since their inaugural 2000 season.  Over that time they have won two league crowns.

Their opponents in the first round are the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, who won the Liberty Division first half title with a 37-32 record, but saw their fortunes take a second-half downturn to end the season with a 65-74 overall record, just 2.5 games better than the Ducks.

This will mark the third consecutive post-season these teams will face off for the Liberty Division crown.  Long Island won the regular season series over the Blue Crabs, eleven games to nine.

It is no wonder the Blue Crabs had a rough second half.  Their top slugger, Cyle Hankerd was scoffed up by the L.A./Anaheim Angels back in July.  He was having a big year for the Crabs and hit two home runs in his final game for them on July 20th.  Cyle left twenty-two home runs and sixty-one RBI behind.  Otherwise, Renny Colina assumed the team lead in home runs with thirteen and Sean Smith added thirteen.  As for the Ducks, they also suffered a big blow when they lost Joash Brodin to the Arizona Diamond Backs.  However, they benefitted from the return of Lew Ford after his stint with the Baltimore Orioles.  Bill Hill led Long Island with sixteen home runs and Adam Bailey added fifteen more.  In 450 at-bats, Southern Maryland's Renny Osuna was their best hitter with .296 average, while Bryant Nelson led the Ducks with a .298 mark in 483 at-bats.  Southern Maryland holds a clear speed advantage over the Ducks.  Sean Smith (36) and Renny Osuna (33) combined for sixty-nine stolen bases.  Joash Brodin left fourteen behind, while P.J. Phillips stole thirteen bases.

Long Island's John Brownell will climb the hill in Game One versus the Crabs Gaby Hernandez.  Brownell led the Ducks with nine wins and a 3.90 ERA.  He finished second in the Atlantic League with 133 strikeouts, but was number one in the circuit with seven complete games.  James Houser was Long Island's number two pitcher right up until August 24th, when he was slapped with a suspension.  He was second to Brownell with ninety-five strikeouts and eight wins.  The Ducks then went and acquired Shaun Marceau, Bobby Blevins, Derek Blacksher and Josh Strawn to bolster their pitching.

Long Island with host first two games of the Liberty Division series, beginning Wednesday evening.  Southern Maryland will then host games Three, Four and Five if necessary.

In Tuesday night's Freedom Division series opener, the Somerset Patriots took a one game lead over the Sugar Land Skeeters.


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