2015 Liberty Division Championship Series Preview
Playoff baseball has returned to Long Island. After a difficult end to the 2014 season where the Ducks finished 73-67 and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2010, Long Island’s hometown team has returned to the postseason. After finishing with the second-most wins in franchise history at 80, compared to 59 losses, the Ducks enter the playoffs looking to claim their fourth Atlantic League championship and third in the past four years. For the Flock, it’s also the 10th time in the past 12 seasons that they have reached the postseason, with 2010 and 2014 as the only exceptions.
Standing in their way in the first round will be a familiar foe and a longtime rival. That, of course, is the Somerset Patriots, who put together an impressive 2015 campaign. They ended the year at 89-50 overall and won both halves in the Liberty Division with a 50-20 record in the first half and a 39-30 record in the second half. These two teams have been battling each other tooth and nail all season long and have been arguably the two best teams in the league all season. Not to mention, they have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to their first matchups in 2000 and was heightened when they met in the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series. Let’s delve a little bit deeper into the Ducks-Patriots matchup:
Since the Ducks joined the Atlantic League in 2000, they have done battle with the Patriots 305 times during the regular season. That is the second-most games against any single opponent in franchise history, trailing only Bridgeport (312). In those 305 meetings, the Patriots have a one-game advantage at 153-152. At Bethpage Ballpark, where the Ducks will host Games One and Two, Long Island holds an 80-75 advantage in the series. At TD Bank Ballpark, where the series will shift for Games Three, Four (if necessary) and Five (if necessary), the Patriots have a 78-72 edge. The last three season series have seen Somerset win, the teams tie and the Ducks win in that order. It’s been one of the most riveting, back-and-forth, hard-fought battles to ever grace the Atlantic League.
In this season’s chapter of the Ducks vs. Patriots rivalry, Long Island earned their first series victory since 2012 by taking 11 of the 20 meetings. In those 20 contests, the Ducks posted only a 4-5 record in their home ballpark. However, they proved to be true warriors on the road, taking seven of the 11 games, including each of the past three. Even more impressive is the fact that 16 of the 20 games were decided by three runs or less, and 10 were determined by just one run. Here’s a look at the head-to-head matchups this season:
The battles between the Ducks and Patriots were never fiercer than the matchup they had during the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series. For the Ducks, they were looking to complete something that the previous two Atlantic League champions had done: win back-to-back titles. For the Patriots, they were looking to claim their first title since going back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, earn their league-best sixth title overall and put the capper on a tremendous season where they won 90 games, the second-most ever in league history. In a series that featured four one-run games and one two-run contest, the Ducks took a two games to none lead at home before falling twice in extra innings to see Somerset knot the series at two. Then, Championship Series MVP John Brownell turned in a magnificent effort in Game Five to earn the win, and Ray Navarrete hit arguably the biggest home run in franchise history to put Long Island ahead for good. Here’s a quick summary of the five-game drama:
Game 1: Patriots 3 @ Ducks 4 (W – Brownell, L – Hoey, S – Rosales)
Highlights – John Brownell throws eight innings of two-run ball; Josh Barfield’s three-run homer in eighth inning off of Jim Hoey gives Ducks the victory
Game 2: Patriots 2 @ Ducks 3 (W – Garceau, L – Merritt, S – Rosales)
Highlights – Shaun Garceau throws seven innings of two-run ball; Lew Ford ties game in sixth with two-run homer, and Bryant Nelson puts Ducks ahead for good with RBI single in sixth
Game 3: Ducks 4 @ Patriots 5 – 10 innings (W – Hunton, L – Threets)
Highlights – Ducks take 3-0 lead into bottom of fourth; Patriots hit five solo homers to win the game, including three by Cory Aldridge, the last of which wins the game in the 10th
Game 4: Ducks 1 @ Patriots 2 – 16 innings (W – McCall, L – Threets)
Highlights – Bobby Blevins and Graham Taylor both duel for eight innings of one-run ball; Angel Sanchez wins game in 16th inning with single to right field
Game 5: Ducks 6 @ Patriots 4 (W – Brownell, L – Harden, S – Rosales)
Highlights – Ducks score four runs in fourth, highlighted by a three-run homer by Ray Navarrete in the final game of his career; John Brownell pitches into the ninth inning to earn the victory
Today, both teams announced their rosters and pitching rotations for the best-of-five Liberty Division Championship Series. CLICK HERE to view the Long Island Ducks roster, and CLICK HERE to view the Somerset Patriots roster. Here are the game dates, times, locations and pitching matchups as of now:
Game One: Wednesday, September 23 – 6:35 p.m. at Bethpage Ballpark
[SP] LHP Roy Merritt (8-6, 2.88 ERA) vs. [LI] RHP John Brownell (12-6, 3.38 ERA)
Game Two: Thursday, September 24 – 6:35 p.m. at Bethpage Ballpark
[SP] RHP Mickey Storey (12-3, 2.53 ERA) vs. [LI] LHP Darin Downs (4-5, 3.85 ERA)
Game Three: Friday, September 25 – 7:05 p.m. at TD Bank Ballpark
[LI] RHP Bobby Blevins (4-4, 3.82 ERA) vs. [SP] LHP Matt Zielinski (8-4, 2.86 ERA)
Game Four: Saturday, September 26 – 7:05 p.m. at TD Bank Ballpark (if necessary)
[LI] RHP Bruce Kern (9-6, 3.51 ERA) vs. [SP] TBD
Game Five: Sunday, September 27 – 5:05 p.m. at TD Bank Ballpark (if necessary)
[LI] TBD vs. [SP] TBD
Finally, here are some audio interviews from Ducks starting pitcher John Brownell and shortstop Dan Lyons during today’s final workout before the start of the postseason:
Have a wonderful evening, Ducks fans! The playoffs return to the Duck Pond on Wednesday night!
Posted on September 22, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged 2015, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Championship Series, Liberty Division, Long Island Ducks, Playoffs, Somerset Patriots, TD Bank Ballpark. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.