Game 79: Ducks vs. Patriots
The Ducks got off to a flying start in their first home game of the second half! Long Island took the series opener of a three-game set by defeating the Somerset Patriots 3-2 at Bethpage Ballpark on Friday night. The Flock used two home runs and strong relief pitching to earn the win, their fifth of the second half.
Both teams sent a ball over the wall in the second frame. Somerset got on the board first against Ducks starter Billy Buckner when Mat Gamel hit a solo shot. Jon Griffin responded for the Ducks with his team-leading 11th homer of the season to deep left field in the home half of the inning off of Somerset starter Randy Boone. Griffin’s shot left Bethpage Ballpark and tied him with Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Lancaster), Kevin Rivers (Lancaster), and Chris Wallace (Sugar Land) for the league lead. However, the Pats went back on top 2-1 one inning later after Aharon Eggleston’s sacrifice fly. The Ducks could not respond in the fourth, but went ahead for good in the fifth. In front of friends and family, left fielder and Long Island native Steve McQuail went deep to left field, a two-run homer that put Long Island ahead 3-2. It was McQuail’s second homer in as many games as a new member of the Ducks. After Buckner was pulled with two outs in the top of the sixth, the Long Island’s bullpen held the Patriots to just one hit over the next three and one-third innings. J.C. Romero got the final out of the sixth, setting up Donnie Veal, Amalio Diaz, and Ryan Kussmaul for the remainder of the contest.
Kussmaul earned his league-leading 22nd save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth frame. The closer’s ERA dropped to 2.55. Buckner improved to 7-1, allowing two runs on five hits through five and two-thirds innings. He walked two and struck out four. Boone fell to 4-3 with the loss. Randy Ruiz and Bryan Sabatella were the only Ducks without a hit. Every other starter had exactly one hit in the win.
CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from the series opener
CLICK HERE to watch postgame interviews with Kevin Baez, Steve McQuail, and Billy Buckner
CLICK HERE to view Friday’s box score
On Saturday, the Ducks will look to secure the series by sending Ian Marshall to the mound. Marshall comes into the weekend at 3-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 14 starts. He has pitched 83 innings and given up 39 runs (34 earned) on 73 hits while walking 28 and striking out 51. The righty faced Somerset on July 3, a 7-5 loss. Marshall took the no decision by allowing four runs on nine hits in seven innings. He tossed six and two-thirds innings in Lancaster last time out, on July 13. Long Island fell 5-4 in the game, while Marshall took the loss. He did strike out a season high seven batters in the start.
Somerset tries to win their first game of the set with ace Sean Bierman getting the start. The southpaw sports an 8-2 record with a 1.78 ERA in 14 starts. He has allowed 25 runs (19 earned) through 95 and two-thirds innings on 88 hits. Bierman has walked 13 and struck out 44, having last faced the Ducks at Bethpage Ballpark on July 5. The lefty took the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits in five and one-third innings. Bierman also left that game due to an ankle injury but has since made one start. The previous outing came on July 13 at home against Camden. Bierman allowed one run on three hits, pitching a complete game as part of Somerset’s 2-1 win over the Riversharks. He has pitched at least eight innings six times this season, including three complete games.
Here are tonight’s game notes:
Ducks vs. Patriots: Tonight marks the 297th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Patriots. The series is tied at 148, but the Ducks have a 79-71 advantage at Bethpage Ballpark. Tonight also marks the 12th of 20 scheduled games between the two in 2015. The Ducks lead the series seven games to four. Nine of the first 11 meetings have been decided by three runs or less. Both teams are facing each other for the third straight weekend and are scheduled play a total of 12 games against one another during the month of July.
Griffin Goes Yard: Jon Griffin’s solo home run in the second inning Friday was his team-high 11th of the season. It also tied him with three others for the most homers in the Atlantic League this year. The first baseman has now gone deep in two of the last three games after going 12 games without a longball. He also became the second player this season to reach 50 RBI, joining Lew Ford (58).
McQuail Mashes Another: In his first home game with the Ducks, Long Island native Steve McQuail hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning. It was his second longball in as many games after also going deep for a solo blast on Thursday at Lancaster, in what was his first start with the Flock. The Ducks have now hit 48 homers as a team this season. McQuail previously posted back-to-back 20 home run seasons in 2012 and 2013 with Schaumburg of the Frontier League.
All He Does Is Win: Billy Buckner tossed his second consecutive strong start against the Patriots on Friday. In his last two outings, the righty has allowed just three runs over 11 and two-thirds innings (2.38 ERA) on seven hits and five walks while striking out 12. The Ducks have won eight of the 10 starts that Buckner has made this season, and he has earned a win in each of his last three starts.
Oh, What a Relief They Are: Long Island’s bullpen tossed three and one-third scoreless innings of relief on Friday. J.C. Romero, Donnie Veal, Amalio Diaz and Ryan Kussmaul combined to allow just one hit and one walk while striking out three. Veal has now made three consecutive scoreless appearances since joining the Flock. Kussmaul has not given up a run in four straight outings, and Diaz has yielded just two runs in his last 18 appearances, posting a 0.90 ERA in that span.
Home Cooking: Friday’s win improved Long Island’s home record this season to 29-7. Their .806 home winning percentage is the best in the Atlantic League. Somerset ranks second at .682 (30-14). The Ducks have a .311 batting average and 3.04 ERA at home. On the road, they’re batting .264 with a 3.28 ERA.
On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ flagship radio station, 103.9-FM LI News Radio. Live streaming video and audio will also be available online by CLICKING HERE. Michael Polak will call the play-by-play. Fans can also follow a pitch-by-pitch account of the game via Pointstreak’s GameLive application by CLICKING HERE.
Finally, here are tonight’s starting lineups:
#44 Bryan Sabatella – RF
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#33 Jon Griffin – 1B
#9 Mike Blanke – C
#40 Steve McQuail – LF
#11 Blake Davis – 2B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#21 Ian Marshall – RHP
#14 Vinny Zarrillo – CF
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#8 David Vidal – C
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#20 Greg Hopkins – 3B
#9 Mat Gamel – DH
#3 Nate Spears – 2B
#13 Robert Andino – SS
#4 James Skelton – 1B
#32 Sean Bierman – LHP
Keep it here for updates all game long from Bethpage Ballpark as the Ducks continue their three-game set with Somerset! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!
UPDATE (6:34): TOP 1: Ian Marshall kicks and delivers and we are underway from the Duck Pond!
UPDATE (6:42): TOP 1: Somerset takes a 1-0 lead on a bases loaded walk from Michael Burgess.
UPDATE (6:46): TOP 1: 3-0 Pats after a fielder’s choice scores one run with the bases loaded and an errant throw scores the third run.
UPDATE (6:47): TOP 1: 4-0 Somerset, Mat Gamel sacrifice fly.
UPDATE (7:10): BOT 2: Steve McQuail with ANOTHER HR! A two-run shot to deep left-center, his third in as many days! 4-2 Pats.
UPDATE (8:09): BOT 6: Ducks still trail 4-2. They hit in the bottom of the sixth looking to put up some runs!
UPDATE (8:19): BOT 6: Dan Lyons reaches on a run-scoring throwing error by shortstop Robert Andino and the Ducks make it a 4-3 ballgame!
UPDATE (8:39): BOT 7: Randy Ruiz!!! His solo HR leaves Bethpage Ballpark in left field! Tie game, 4-4!
UPDATE (8:55): BOT 8: Steve McQuail…DUCKS TAKE THE LEAD! McQuail’s second HR of the game, fourth in three games as a Duck!!! Solo shot, 5-4 Ducks lead!
UPDATE (9:17): TOP 9: Pats go ahead 6-5 on an Aharon Eggleston bloop two-run single to left.
UPDATE (9:20): TOP 9: David Vidal pads Somerset’s lead with a RBI double. They lead 7-5.