Top 10 of 2013
2013 has come to an end and with it, another year in which the Ducks finished on top of the Atlantic League. While Long Island certainly had their share of ups and downs in the past year, there is no denying the Ducks had their fair share of memorable games throughout the regular season and playoffs. It was a year that featured walk-offs, comebacks, dominant performances and ultimately, a champagne celebration that every team desires when they report for Spring Training. With a New Year upon us and another season of excitement, drama and memories upcoming, let’s take a look back at what we believe were the 10 most memorable games of 2013:
The Ducks and Patriots seem to always play intense, time-consuming games with dramatic endings. The two took 17 innings to decide a game in 2012 and have continually exceeded the three and four-hour mark during their history. August 25 at Bethpage Ballpark was another contest that lasted well more than nine regulation innings and well past four hours. In fact, it needed more than five hours to decide. Somerset took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning before Ryan Strieby cut the deficit to one with a two-run homer to right. It stayed that way until the eighth inning when Willis Otanez blasted a solo homer to left, knotting the score at three. Zeroes were then exchanged until the bottom of the 14th when Josh Barfield launched a solo homer to left-center, ending the second-longest game in Ducks history at five hours and 10 minutes. John Brownell tossed nine innings in the game, throwing 144 pitches total, and both teams combined to use 12 pitchers overall in the 4-3 Ducks win.
The Ducks saw many strong pitching performances from Major League veteran Dontrelle Willis during his time on Long Island, but his best start came away from Bethpage Ballpark. On a Friday night in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the southpaw looked exactly like the man who won the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year and who finished second for the 2005 NL Cy Young Award. Willis allowed just one hit in a complete game shutout, a third inning single to Blake Gailen. He walked three batters total, including the first two batters of the game for Lancaster, but allowed nothing further. In addition, he struck out five and threw 72 of his 117 pitches for strikes. Offensively, the Ducks rode a four-run first inning to an 8-0 win in support of the nine-year MLB vet.
Before the second-largest crowd in Ducks history, Long Island’s hometown team gave the fans more to celebrate than simply America’s birthday. A past-capacity crowd of 7,416 packed into Bethpage Ballpark to watch the Ducks and Patriots do battle, and Somerset quickly quelled them by going ahead 4-0. However, a Bill Hall two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth cut the deficit in half, and it was just the start of a special night for the former big leaguer. The Patriots took a 5-3 advantage into the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Ducks fought back and brought the Faithful Flock to their feet. Bryant Nelson’s RBI single to right trimmed the lead to one, and Hall followed with a mammoth three-run homer to left to put the Ducks on top for good at 7-5. Leo Rosales closed the door with a scoreless ninth, and the fans were treated to a postgame Grucci Fireworks Extravaganza that capped of an exciting celebration following the dramatic win.
Long Island entered the 2013 playoffs as underdogs, just like they had in 2012. The Flock had their share of ups and downs during the regular season and was facing a Blue Crabs team looking for revenge after losing to the Ducks in the first round the previous two years. Long Island needed a strong start to open the postseason, and Brownell certainly delivered. The righty struck out 12 Southern Maryland batters in a complete game gem to give the Ducks a 6-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the series. His 12 K’s were a franchise record for a playoff game, breaking the mark of 10 set by Matt Way (2012) and Mike Loree (2011) previously. Brownell also became just the second Duck ever to throw a complete game in the playoffs, joining Lance Davis, who did so in Game Three of the 2005 North Division Championship Series at Nashua. Ryan Strieby also had four hits, which tied the franchise record for most hits in a playoff game (George Lombard, Game Four of the 2009 Liberty Division Championship Series).
With the Ducks looking to get off to a fast start in the second half after missing out on a playoff berth in the first half, Long Island’s best offensive weapon came through in a big way on Friday, July 19. Facing the Camden Riversharks, the Ducks fell behind 2-0 in the second inning on a pair of homers and trailed 5-1 at the seventh inning stretch. However, Joash Brodin brought the Ducks within one on a three-run homer to right. The switch-hitter then reached on an infield single in the ninth inning, during which the tying run scored on an error by Camden. All of that looked meaningless though when the Riversharks scored three times in the 10th inning to take an 8-5 lead. But the night was not over. Ray Navarrete’s RBI single and Kraig Binick’s sac fly closed the gap to one before Brodin came to the plate. On Adrian Martin’s first pitch, the second-year Duck crushed a grand slam to right, sending the Duck Pond into an absolute frenzy.
After jumping out to a 5-0 lead the night before in Somerset only to drop a 9-5 decision, the Ducks returned to the field at TD Bank Ballpark on Saturday night, needing a win to secure the Second Half Liberty Division title and a third consecutive postseason berth. Long Island needed a dominant performance on the mound, and they certainly got it from newcomer Shaun Garceau. The right-hander went the distance in a two-hit shutout, walking just one batter while striking out eight and needed just 105 pitches to do so. A run in the sixth on Bryant Nelson’s RBI fielder’s choice was all the Ducks needed, though they added three more in the seventh for good measure, highlighted by Lew Ford’s two-run single. The 4-0 victory gave the Flock their ninth playoff ticket in 10 seasons and a rematch with the Blue Crabs in the Liberty Division Championship Series for a third consecutive season.
It was a night to remember as the Ducks opened their 2013 home schedule on Friday, April 26. The evening started with the celebration of the team’s 2012 Atlantic League championship, with players, coaches and staff receiving their beautiful championship rings and raising the banner atop the scoreboard. After the memorable ceremony, the Ducks and Skeeters took the field for the first of 10 meetings at the Duck Pond. After closing a seven-game road trip with a win, the Ducks made it two victories in a row, thanks largely to an eight-run third inning. Down 3-1 at the time, the Flock used a three-run home run by former Met Ramon Castro and a grand slam by Danny Perales to take a commanding 9-3 lead. Dontrelle Willis also made his Ducks debut, and a crowd of 5,730 enjoyed a 10-5 Ducks win.
Certain players have a flair for the dramatic. Derek Jeter is one of them, who earned the 3,000th hit of his Major League career with a home run at Yankee Stadium in front of a sold out crowd. Ray Navarrete is another. Some of his biggest milestones have come in big moments. Take his 616th hit as a Duck, which surpassed Justin Davies for the all-time franchise record. The hit was a ninth inning three-run homer that gave the Ducks an 8-6 lead and eventual win in York. His 1,000th Atlantic League hit would be just as dramatic. On August 3, against the same York Revolution, the longest tenured Duck needed three hits to reach the 1,000-hit plateau. He doubled to left in his first at-bat in the opening inning and singled to left in the third to pull within one hit of the milestone. Then, in the seventh inning, the Port Washington resident launched a solo homer to left off former big leaguer Michael Wuertz to reach the magical 1,000. The crowd of 6,507 erupted in excitement at Bethpage Ballpark, as did his teammates in the dugout who pushed Ray out to accept a curtain call. The blast also brought renewed life to his teammates, who rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to win the game 8-6 on Adam Bailey’s waddle-off-three-run homer to right.
This is the only game on the list that doesn’t end in a Ducks victory, but a Championship Series game that lasts 16 innings simply cannot be left off this list. With a win, the Ducks would claim the championship trophy. With a loss, the Patriots would force a decisive Game Five. Bobby Blevins, like he did in a pair of clinching games in 2012, was magnificent on the mound for the Ducks. He twirled eight innings of five-hit, one-run ball and did not walk a batter. Graham Taylor was equally brilliant for the Pats, yielding just one run and three hits in eight innings. 14 pitchers would be used after the two, seven on each side, before the game finally ended on a walk-off single to right by Angel Sanchez. In all, 449 pitches were thrown between the two sides and 27 runners were left on base in the 2-1 contest that left fans and players physically and mentally exhausted after taking five hours and 18 minutes to complete.
After a pair of dramatic wins at Bethpage Ballpark to open their quest for a repeat, the Ducks dropped back-to-back heartbreakers in extra innings at TD Bank Ballpark. That set up a winner-take-all Game Five for the second consecutive year to determine the Atlantic League champion. It was another epic battle between the two most successful franchises in league history, and the game was defined by two men. The first was John Brownell, who pitched eight strong innings for the second time in the series, and ultimately was named Championship Series MVP for his efforts. The second was Ray Navarrete, who in the final game of his professional career and first start of the Championship Series, launched a go-ahead three-run homer on the first pitch from David Harden in the fourth inning. The blast gave Long Island a 4-1 lead, and the Flock never looked back en route to winning their third Atlantic League title.
Obviously, the place for each of these games on the list can be debated. In deciding where each ranked, we factored in things such as its importance in the Ducks’ season, the excitement and drama involved in the game, whether a milestone or record was achieved and more. There are also several other games that could be considered for the list that happened to be left off. Let us know what you think of our Top 10 and if there are any other games you feel should be on this list. If so, which game should be left off? Leave us a comment and tell us why.
Most importantly, the Ducks would like to wish everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year! Here’s to celebrating our 15th Anniversary and vying to become the first team in Atlantic League history to “three-peat” as champions in 2014!
Posted on December 31, 2013, in Feature Articles and tagged 2013, 2014, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Championship, Flock, Happy New Year, Long Island Ducks, Top 10. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.