Top Moments of 2016 – #3
Thus far, we have unveiled four of our Top Moments of 2016 here on “Quack of the Bat.” Some incredible memories from this past season have already been relived, and it’s amazing to think that we have yet to crack the three best moments from the year that was. For those who may have missed out, let’s recap moments seven through four on our list:
The countdown is off to a terrific start, but the best has yet to come! It’s clear that July featured some of the top occurrences from this past season. As we reach the third moment on our list, we once again return to that month. Two of the biggest themes this past season were the on-field success of the team and the breaking of many franchise records, both on and off the field. Both of those were evident in a big way on the night of July 2, one that should certainly go down among the top games in franchise history. Let’s relive the evening:
Champagne and Broken Records – July 2, 2016
Year in and year out, the first benchmark on a list of goals for the Ducks is to clinch a playoff berth. Accordingly, the team also makes it a point to stress the importance of winning the season’s first half. It enables a team to take a great deal of pressure off of itself in the second half of the season and allow injured players to fully recuperate before joining the lineup once again. Long Island clinched the first half in 2004, en route to an Atlantic League championship, did so in 2011 and reached the Championship Series and once again accomplished the goal in 2012 before claiming another league title. However, they Ducks had failed to do so in each of the three subsequent seasons entering 2016.
Early on, it appeared that the streak would continue. Long Island went 1-6 on a season-opening seven-game road trip while the Somerset Patriots won each of their first 13 games to begin their title defense. The Ducks fell as far back as six-and-a-half games in the Liberty Division, but they would mount a tremendous comeback. After posting an 18-10 record in May, the Ducks sat in first place once again. However, a streak of six losses in seven games in mid-June dropped the Flock two-and-a-half games in back of Somerset. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Long Island stormed right back again. They went on to win five of the next seven games to vault back into first place heading into a three-game series against the Sugar Land Skeeters to close the half. Following an 8-4 win on July 1, the Ducks needed just one victory to claim the First Half Liberty Division title.
The first half of 2016 also saw right-handed pitcher John Brownell surpass all-time great Randy Leek for several franchise records. After taking over the strikeouts record in 2015, the defending Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year broke Leek’s all-time record for innings pitched on May 25. He would then tie the southpaw in both wins and games started during a complete game effort on June 5. Although Brownell took over the starts record in his next outing six days later, he would go winless in four consecutive starts. Despite having a 3.11 ERA, he was still stuck on four wins for the season and 40 for his Ducks career entering his final start of the first half on July 2.
With the ace on the hill and a first half title in their sights, the Ducks took the field against the Skeeters before a past-capacity crowd of 7,063. Ricky Hague temporarily quieted the fans with an RBI double in the fourth inning, but Long Island quickly came back to life. Dan Lyons took advantage of a two-out error in the bottom of the inning by blasting a two-run home run off Aaron Thompson. Brownell protected the 2-1 lead over the next three innings before his teammates gave him some late insurance. A two-out single by Mike Dowd in the seventh saw Ruben Gotay score from first following an error by Kent Matthes. Three more runs would follow in the eighth thanks to Lyons’ RBI single, another Skeeters error and an RBI single by Dowd.
Holding a 6-1 advantage, Brownell took the mound in the ninth vying for another complete game. He would retire the leadoff man before allowing back-to-back singles. With a pitch count at 125, Kevin Baez summoned closer Todd Coffey, taking no chances with the clinching victory in sight. Matthes popped out to left field leaving only Albert Cordero in the Ducks’ and Brownell’s way.
Long Island had officially completed their comeback, clinching the First Half Liberty Division title and a berth into the 2016 Atlantic League playoffs. In addition, Brownell had become the winningest pitcher in franchise history, doing so with a vintage performance that Ducks fans have become so accustomed to in his five seasons with the organization. After a joyous, well-earned champagne celebration, the Ducks reflected on the feeling of earning a postseason spot and the excitement in another franchise record being surpassed.
With the #2 moment on our list coming Thursday and the Top Moment of 2016 being unveiled Friday, be sure to stay tuned and see which moments made the cut!
Posted on December 21, 2016, in Feature Articles and tagged 2016, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Champions, Dan Lyons, First Half, Franchise Record, John Brownell, Liberty Division, Long Island Ducks, Randy Leek, Sugar Land Skeeters, Top Moments. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.