Free Baseball + Long Ball = First Place
Make that six straight wins for the Long Island Ducks, and a three game sweep over the Somerset Patriots. In fact, the Flock complete their second straight sweep of the Patriots within the last ten days. Even better, Long Island moves into sole possession of first place, one game ahead of always problematic Somerset.
The Ducks take a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth of Wednesday's series finale at Somerset, but a passed ball charged to catcher Dioner Navarro allows the tying run to score. And into extra innings they go.
As they've done all series, the Flock propel themselves to another victory via the long ball. With two outs in the top of the eleventh, right fielder Anthony Vega hits only his second home run of the season off Somerset's Dustin Antolin to put Long Island ahead. Ducks reliever Ashur Tolliver pitches himself into a jam in the bottom of the frame, but fans the final two batters of the game to secure Long Island's 4-3 victory.
Tolliver is credited with his very first save of the season. Dennis O'Grady gets credit for his fifth victory in relief this season for pitching a scoreless tenth inning. In a no-decision effort, starter Matt Larkins surrenders just one earned run on five hits and two walks through five innings pitched.
Taylor Ard raises his average to .308 with a 4 for 5 day the plate with an RBI. Despite going just 1 for 5 this day, Jordany Valdespin is second in the circuit and leads the Ducks with a .350 average. With two more RBI, Lew Ford ranks fourth in the league with 66 RBI.
Long Island is second in the league behind Sugar Land with 83 home runs, while Somerset ranks last with just 44 home runs. Otherwise the Ducks are number one in hits, and total bases, and rank second behind Sugar Land in runs, team batting, slugging, and OPS.
What rival Somerset lacks in hitting, they make up for on the mound. They allow less earned runs and less hits than Long Island. They lead the league in WHiP, strikeouts, and fewest walks allowed, and rank second in ERA and average against.
The Long Island Ducks and Somerset Patriots do not face each other for the rest of the regular season. They both will make their own way towards capturing the division crown from here on out.
If they are to meet again for a fourth straight Liberty Division playoff, the Ducks have no choice but to win the second half division title. The Patriots already did their part by winning the first half title.
These teams faced off nine times in May with the Patriots winning six. Mid July brings more of the same with Somerset sweeping a three game set for a 9-3 season series advantage. But as July turns to August, Long Island reciprocates with a three game sweep of their own, then follow up with this latest conquest over the Patriots. The regular season series ends locked at nine games apiece.
Did you expect anything less?