15th Anniversary Team: Right-Handed Starter
Next week marks the beginning of April, which means that Major League Baseball’s Opening Day has just about arrived. While the wait for Opening Day in the Atlantic League is just a tad longer, the time gives us an opportunity to continue voting for the Ducks 15th Anniversary Team. Last week, fans voted quite convincingly for the left-handed starting pitcher they felt most deserving of a spot on the “Flock 15” roster. While his identity will not be revealed until Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark on May 2, we can safely say that he is extremely deserving of the selection.
This week, the voting turns to the top right-handed starting pitchers in Ducks history. These pitchers have all become synonymous with success on Long Island and are undoubtedly deserving of nominations. This week’s candidates have combined for four Atlantic League championships and three ALPB All-Star Game selections. Here are the nominees:
While Ahearne might be remembered by some for the six seasons he spent with the Bridgeport Bluefish, the California native did enjoy a solid two seasons with the Ducks. He first came to Long Island in 2006 and was immediately successful. The Pepperdine University alum went 12-4 with a 3.47 ERA and just 28 walks and 105 strikeouts in 155 and two-thirds innings of work. His efforts were good enough to earn him a selection as an Atlantic League All-Star, and he helped lead Long Island to the playoffs for a third consecutive year. Ahearne returned to the Flock in 2007, and although he only made four starts, his overall numbers with the Ducks are still impressive. He finished his two-year Ducks career with a 13-7 record, 4.09 ERA and a 116/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 career games (26 starts).
The only nominee on the active roster, Brownell is set to return for his third year with the Ducks in 2014. Already a two-time Atlantic League champion, Brownell has enjoyed incredible postseason success. The Oklahoma resident started Game Four in both rounds of the 2012 postseason and dazzled both times out, posting a 2.84 ERA and six strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings. Last season, he made three playoff starts and won all three, combining for a 2.88 ERA and 21 strikeouts to just six walks in 25 innings. His final start in Game Five of the Championship Series helped earn him ALCS MVP honors, becoming the first pitcher in team history to earn the honor. Brownell was dominant in the 2013 regular season as well, as he posted a 3.90 ERA and set Ducks single-season records in complete games (7), shutouts (2) and strikeouts (133). The strikeouts were also second-most in the Atlantic League in 2013. That season was good enough to earn him the fan vote for the Ducks/Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP award.
Henderson was the first of these five nominees to ever wear a Ducks uniform and has arguably the best regular season numbers on this list. Henderson played in the first two seasons of baseball on Long Island (2000-01) and compiled a 17-5 record with a 2.39 ERA (lowest among nominees) and 162 strikeouts in 181 innings of work. The Kentucky native was an ace his first year at the Duck Pond, going 9-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 14 games (12 starts). His success continued the next year when he went 8-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 games. Ducks fans will forever remember though the night of May 25, 2001 when the Ducks hosted the Atlantic City Surf. Henderson allowed just two walks the entire night while facing just one batter over the minimum, tossing the first and only no-hitter in franchise history. The 108-pitch, 10-strikeout performance was also the first no-no in Atlantic League history.
Loree spent two seasons on Long Island (2011-12), but his first year with the Flock was without a doubt the best the franchise has ever seen. That year, the New Jersey native won a team-record 14 games while losing only five, posted a microscopic 1.98 ERA and struck out a league-leading 131 batters, which was also a Ducks record at the time. He also set a Ducks record for most strikeouts in a game with 14 on September 15 against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. That magical year was more than enough to earn Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year honors and the starting pitcher spot at the Atlantic League All-Star Game in York. Loree excelled in the 2011 postseason as well, leading the Ducks staff with a 2-0 record in three starts and allowing just three runs over 19 innings (1.10 ERA) with 17 strikeouts and two walks. The righty began the 2012 championship season with Long Island and made 18 starts before he was signed by the Lamigo Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. In 42 regular season appearances (37 starts) with the Flock, Loree tallied a 19-12 record with a 3.69 ERA, and 220 strikeouts in 227.0 innings. Those wins, strikeouts and innings pitched totals lead all nominees.
The final nominee this week joins Brownell and Loree among nominees that won a championship with the Ducks. Rekar played two seasons with Long Island (2003-04), and was a part of the franchise’s first championship team in 2004. Rekar’s standout season with the Ducks though came the year prior in 2003. That season, the Illinois native went 9-4 with an impressive 2.12 ERA, three complete games (two shutouts) and a 101/17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 140 innings pitched. That earned the Bradley University alum an All-Star Game selection. Rekar returned the next year to make 11 more starts, and his career numbers with the Ducks are quite impressive. His final line looks like this: 11-8, 3.16 ERA, 34 starts, 193 and two-thirds innings pitched, 32 walks and 137 strikeouts.
Those are your nominees for the right-handed starting pitcher spot on the 15th Anniversary Team. If you feel that there is another player deserving of the spot, you can write in a nomination by selecting “other” and typing the name in the poll below. As the excitement for the start of the 2014 season continues to build, the voting for the “Flock 15” continues to remain popular among Ducks fans. We’re less than a month away from Atlantic League baseball!