LDCS Game 4: Ducks at Patriots

In Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series, the Patriots made the Ducks pay with two outs in an inning en route to a 5-3 series-opening win. In Game Three, the Ducks flipped the script on their division rivals. Long Island broke out for nine runs, the first six coming with two outs in an inning, and stunned an Atlantic League playoff record crowd of 7,835 at TD Bank Ballpark in a 9-4 win. The Ducks now lead the Patriots two games to one and get their first shot at a fourth Liberty Division title in five seasons on Saturday night.

Over the first four innings, the feel was very similar to that of Game One. The Ducks put runners at first and second with two outs in both the first and third innings and had two on with no one out in the second, but each time, Patriots starter Matt Zielinski wiggled out of trouble. Meanwhile, the Patriots took the lead in the third inning when Bobby Blevins surrendered a first pitch, two-out solo homer to right off the bat of Aharon Eggleston. In the fifth, Delta Cleary, Jr. singled with one out and Lew Ford followed with a walk. However, Randy Ruiz’s deep fly ball to center was caught on the warning track, and it appeared like the Ducks would again come up empty. This time though, the Flock came through.

Game Two hero Sean Burroughs grounded a single through the right side to tie the game at one. Dan Lyons followed with a double over the head of Eggleston in left to score Ford and give the Ducks the lead. Then, Cody Puckett delivered a back-breaking two-run single up the middle to earn his second straight multi-RBI game. All of a sudden, the Ducks led 4-1. Ford delivered a two-out RBI single in the sixth to score Elmer Reyes, who had reached on an error, and the lead seemed comfortable at 5-1. However, Michael Burgess burned the Ducks again with a two-run homer to right-center in the bottom of the sixth, and it was suddenly a two-run ballgame.

The two-out magic returned again in the seventh, as Puckett, who finished with four hits, singled to center and came around to score when Eggleston could not catch Mike Blanke’s double to left-center. Down 6-3, Somerset tried to manufacture a comeback in the bottom of the frame. Ollie Linton reached on a bunt single, and Adam Donachie walked, ending the night for Blevins. Patrick Crider came on to face lefty Nate Spears, but Patriots manager Brett Jodie countered with righty David Vidal, who singled to plate Linton. The lead was just two for the Flock, and the tying runs were now on base. Kevin Baez summoned Nick Struck, who caught a break when Robert Andino’s bunt attempt was popped up to Puckett. Eggleston followed with a walk to load the bases, setting up the biggest moment in the ballgame.

If Thomas Neal had delivered a single, the Patriots would have tied the ballgame at six. However, Struck got him to hit a ground ball to the right of Lyons at short. The 2015 Team MVP went to his knees to stop the ball, threw to second for the force, and Reyes relayed the throw to first to complete a magnificent 6-4-3 double play. Long Island’s dugout exploded, and the crowd in Bridgewater was silenced. Long Island took the momentum into the eighth, as Randy Ruiz hit a two-run double and Sean Burroughs lifted a sacrifice fly to left. The Ducks scored three times, taking advantage of an error by Matt Fields on a bunt attempt, and put the game out of reach at 9-4. Ryan Kussmaul did an admirable job in relief, retiring the final six Patriots batters to secure the win.

CLICK HERE to listen to audio highlights from Game Three of the LDCS
CLICK HERE to view postgame interviews with Kevin Baez, Cody Puckett and Bobby Blevins
CLICK HERE to view the Game Three box score

In Game Four of the series, the Ducks will turn to Long Island native Bruce Kern. The right-hander began the season as a Spring Training invitee and now will take the ball trying to pitch the Flock into the Atlantic League Championship Series. He finished the season with a 9-6 record and a 3.51 ERA in 40 games (13 starts). He began the year primarily as a reliever before becoming a full-time starter at the end of July. Like Blevins, Kern has success away from Bethpage Ballpark this season. In 23 games (five starts), he posted a 3.49 ERA, allowing just 20 runs (19 earned) on 41 hits and 16 walks in 49 innings while striking out 45. The 27-year-old was also very strong against Somerset, going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in six games (three starts) and holding the Pats to a .191 batting average against him. Highlights for Kern included eight innings of one-run ball on August 20 in a 5-1 win over Somerset and a pair of eight strikeout performances at Bethpage Ballpark against them on July 5 (9-4 win) and July 28 (3-2 loss).

Opposing Kern will be Will Oliver, who the Ducks will be seeing for the first time this year. The right-hander joined the Patriots on August 9 and went on to post a 6-2 record with a 3.16 ERA in nine starts. He allowed more than three runs in only one start (August 16 at Camden) and was very strong at home, winning all four of his starts and pitching to a 1.13 ERA. Oliver began the season as a member of the Evansville Otters in the Frontier League and compiled a 9-2 record with a 1.59 ERA and five complete games. The 28-year-old finished the season with a loss at York on the campaign’s final day and pitched to a 3.91 ERA over his last four starts.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Historic Season: The Ducks finished the 2015 regular season with 80 wins. That total marks the second-most in franchise history, with the only higher total being 82 during the 2000 season (82-58). In addition, Long Island also set a team record with their 42 wins in the first half of the season. That total accounted for the most wins ever by a Ducks team in either half of the season.

Game Four Notes: Long Island brings an all-time record of 3-3 in Game Four matchups into tonight’s contest. In those six games, the Ducks have gone 2-1 at home and 1-2 on the road. The Ducks dropped Game Four of the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series 2-1 in 16 innings at Somerset but won Game Four of the 2012 ALCS 9-3 over Lancaster at Bethpage Ballpark. Long Island has won two of their three Game Fours in the Liberty Division Championship Series.

Sean is On: Sean Burroughs picked up two more hits on Friday for his third straight multi-hit game of the postseason. During the series, the former big leaguer has eight hits in 12 at-bats with one double, four RBI and two runs scored. In the regular season, Burroughs collected eight two-hit games with the Ducks and finished with 15 multi-hit games overall.

Cody Crushes It: Cody Puckett tied a franchise record on Friday with four hits in the win. Only two other Ducks have ever finished a playoff game with four hits. George Lombard accomplished the feat in Game Four of the 2009 Liberty Division Championship Series against Southern Maryland, and Ryan Strieby matched him in Game One of the 2013 LDCS, also against the Blue Crabs. Friday marked the first time any Duck earned four hits in a road playoff game.

You’ve Been Thunder-Struck: Nick Struck pitched another scoreless inning in the seventh on Friday, getting out of a first-and-second, no-out jam and leaving the tying runs on base. Dating back to the regular season, the right-hander has allowed just one run in his last 17 appearances. In that span, he has compiled a 0.44 ERA, allowing just one run in 20 and one-third innings. The 25-year-old has given up 10 hits and 12 walks while striking out 18 batters.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ flagship radio station, 103.9-FM. Live streaming 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:

#22 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#5   Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#20 Lew Ford – CF
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#25 Sean Burroughs – 1B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#2   Cody Puckett – 3B
#9   Mike Blanke – C
#11 Elmer Reyes – 2B

#30 Bruce Kern – RHP

#11 Robert Andino – SS
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#24 Thomas Neal – DH
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#16 Matt Fields – 1B
#8   David Vidal – 3B
#20 Greg Hopkins – 2B
#5   Ollie Linton – CF
#21 Adam Donachie – C

#14 Will Oliver – RHP

Check back here for updates throughout the game as the Ducks and Patriots play Game Four of the LDCS from TD Bank Ballpark! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (7:15): We are underway in the first, as both sides are retired in order. Onto the second!

UPDATE (7:44): END 3: Still no score at TD Bank Ballpark. Each side has one hit. Bruce Kern has struck out five batters thus far!

UPDATE (8:07): BOT 4: Kern wiggles out of a jam in the frame, getting David Vidal on a groundout to leave the bases loaded! Still scoreless after four.

UPDATE (8:40): BOT 6: Patriots take the lead with three two-out runs. A RBI single by Matt Fields and a two-run double by David Vidal break the tie.

UPDATE (9:01): BOT 7: A RBI single to right by Robert Andino extends the Patriots lead to 4-0.

UPDATE (9:23): FINAL: Will Oliver tosses a scoreless ninth to complete the shutout. Patriots win 4-0. Decisive Game Five on Sunday at 5:05 p.m.


Posted on September 26, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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