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Quack of the Bat Visits Cooperstown

In the difficult times we are all currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, many baseball fans have been unable to enjoy their favorite sport as they normally would. 2020 has seen a very abbreviated Major League Baseball season and only a select few other teams take the field to play ball in empty ballparks or with extremely light crowds. With the Atlantic League being unable to have a season this year, Quack of the Bat decided to get a bit of a baseball fix by heading up to Cooperstown, N.Y. recently to check out the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

For those that love baseball, this trip is a MUST. This little town is about four and a half hours away from Long Island (depending where on the island you’re traveling from), and Main Street is a baseball paradise. Shops filled with Cooperstown souvenirs and baseball memorabilia line the street along with some great restaurants. A favorite is Doubleday Café! All of those lead to the Hall of Fame at the end of the street, the pinnacle landing spot for any baseball player.

The Hall of Fame contains a litany of artifacts from throughout baseball history, dating all the way back to the 1800s. Its archive of baseball, bats, jerseys, gloves, lockers and so many other treasures of baseball is what makes this place so special. New York baseball fans especially will love the many references to their beloved team. Yankees fans will find a giant wall showcasing the 27 World Series championships the Yankees have won, including a replica of the 1996 Commissioner’s Trophy in front of it, and uniforms worn by the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Mets fans can enjoy a peek at a batting helmet worn by Ray Knight, a baseball from Johan Santana’s no-hitter, a jersey donned by Dwight Gooden, and so much more.

Not only is Cooperstown home to many Major League Baseball artifacts, but it is also the place where a special piece of Atlantic League history resides. Within the past year, the Hall of Fame added an earpiece worn by ALPB home plate umpire Fred DeJesus to the end of its “Whole New Ballgame” exhibit on the second floor. In the “Today’s Game” showcase, the earpiece rests on a shelf with a description acknowledging the league’s use of an electronic strike zone in 2019.

The earpiece was worn by DeJesus during the Long Island Ducks game against the New Britain Bees on July 25, 2019, in what was the first Atlantic League regular season game to implement the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS). Following the first inning, the earpiece was presented by DeJesus and his fellow-umpires to Ducks Founder/CEO Frank Boulton, who would then donate the artifact to the Hall of Fame on behalf of the ALPB.

However, this is not the first time the Atlantic League has had an item on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Back in 2015, the league debuted a new baseball with red and blue seams at the All-Star Game in Bridgeport. It has since used that baseball during all games. The baseball that D.J. Mitchell threw for the first pitch of the 2015 All-Star Game was donated to the Hall of Fame following the game. As noted in the description, it recalls the stitches used on American League baseballs through 1933. Additionally, last year, the cleats Blue Crabs outfielder Tony Thomas wore when he became the first player in baseball history to steal first base, were also donated to the Hall of Fame.

Several other artifacts are on display that have connections to the Atlantic League throughout the Hall of Fame. Here are a few of them:

Induction Plaques of ALPB alumni Gary Carter, Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines

Catching Mitt worn by Gary Carter

Angels Jersey worn by ALPB alumnus Francisco Rodriguez

Team Israel Cap worn by ALPB alumnus Josh Zeid

To conclude, a visit to Cooperstown should be on every baseball fans’ bucket list, and there has never been a better time to visit. For more information, go to BaseballHall.org.

Have you been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown? What do you enjoy most about this special place? Do you have a favorite artifact on display? Comment and let us know!

Weathering the Storm

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Ruben Gotay and the island of Puerto Rico persevere amid disaster

When a baseball player steps onto the field of play, he is expected to perform. It is his job to be completely immersed in the game at hand and to compete by making positive contributions that result in victories. The bat must meet the ball, the pitch must be in the strike zone, the glove must snare the liner and the throw must be on point. The expectation is for them to perform almost as if they’re robotic.

When push comes to shove though, these ballplayers are human. They make errors, they allow walks and they strike out. They all have lives outside of the white lines, the clubhouse and the ballpark. Each has a family and friends thousands of miles away, whom many don’t see for months at a time. It is near-impossible for a ballplayer to go through the grind of a season without thinking about life back home.

That way of life took on a new meaning for Ducks infielder Ruben Gotay this past year. As he helped the Ducks to a third consecutive playoff appearance and sixth Division Championship, his native homeland of Puerto Rico was being ravaged by an unforgiving hurricane season. First, it was Irma in early September. Then, it was Maria just two weeks later. As Maria churned its way towards the island, his hometown of Fajardo was preparing to take the storm’s first punch.

“I was born and raised in Fajardo on the east side of Puerto Rico,” said Gotay by telephone from his home this week. “I love the town. It’s where I started my career, and my whole family is over here. It’s where the whole hurricane basically entered Puerto Rico…one of the first areas that got it.”

Gotay-Swing

Fajardo is still home for Gotay during the offseason, and his parents still live there as well. In the month of September though, he was playing crucial games for the Ducks some 1,600 miles away. The team needed his veteran presence in the clubhouse and the lineup, and he knew the stakes riding on every game, especially once the postseason began. However, with family and friends back home riding out a pair of major storms, it became increasingly difficult for Gotay to keep his focus on the field.

“I tried to hide it a little, but it wasn’t easy,” he recalled. “Once I saw all the images and the aftermath, it was kind of hard to comprehend that this just happened to the island where I come from. It was kind of hard to concentrate on the game and not think about my family and everyone back home.”

Gotay went on to add, “It was the first time that I’d been through something like this in my whole career, and believe me, it was not easy. I think it might have been a little bit easier when actually playing the game because you’re concentrating so hard and adrenaline is flowing, but once you leave the field, and I’m not talking about the clubhouse I mean from between those two white lines, it’s kind of hard not to think about anything else but your family.”

Aside from the physical damage caused throughout Puerto Rico by the hurricanes, several other aspects of life were greatly altered. Gotay mentioned that many residents, especially those in the mountain regions, had a great deal of trouble getting access to food, water and first aid. Several bridges and roadways were damaged from the storm, and clean water was hard to come by. Much of the island lost power during and following the storm, and regaining that electricity would not come swiftly. With no power and communications down, it became very difficult for Gotay and others affected to maintain contact with one another.

“I talked to my parents about a day or two before the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, but once it hit, I lost touch with them for like three or four days,” he noted.  “All of the communications went down. I was fortunate that I was able to talk to my parents so soon. Some of my friends that were on other teams didn’t get to talk to their families for a week or two. It was very hard for them to play a game without thinking about what was going on back home.”

Gotay-Homer

Gotay’s extensive experience in professional baseball often put him in the position where he could help support younger players on the roster. He was able to make communication easier for them and put their minds at ease during slumps or intense games. However, the challenge of being far from home during a disaster like this and difficulty of staying in touch put him in the opposite role. In this case, Gotay’s teammates were the ones who provided the support he ultimately needed.

“I really have to thank each and every one of those guys because they talked to me every day to see how I was and how my family was back home,” he reminisced. “It’s good and bad because sometimes you’re trying to concentrate and do something, but at the same time, they’re worrying about me and my family. That is something I will always appreciate about my teammates with the Ducks. There were a couple of my teammates from winter ball that we were playing against [in the Atlantic League], and every time we got on the field, we were talking about the storms and wondering how everybody was.”

Thankfully for Gotay, his and his parent’s homes were relatively spared. They suffered minimal damage, though the same could not be said for the rest of Puerto Rico. The former New York Met mentioned how roofs were torn off homes, cars were badly damaged and that most of the land was flooded from heavy rainfall. Recovery and relief efforts began as the Ducks were playing postseason baseball, and Gotay was juggling his goal to win an Atlantic League championship with determining how he could help out his homeland.

While in the playoffs, he urged fans at Ducks games to donate to the Red Cross as well as to the Go Fund Me effort started by his close friend, St. Louis Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. Following the season’s conclusion, he met up with Molina in Florida and expressed a great interest in helping him give back to his fellow Puerto Ricans. Molina was all-in on having Gotay join him and his foundation’s efforts.

“I flew with [Yadier] to Puerto Rico and made a few stops around the island giving food and other supplies to the community,” Gotay explained. “We got together to do everything we could so that people had something to eat. A few of our other friends and their family members joined us also. Yadier really did all of the hard work to make it happen, and I was there to help him out. It was good to come back over here and help some families around the island.”

Following his assistance in relief efforts, Gotay was able to make his way back home to Fajardo and reunite with his family. He was beyond thankful to see first-hand that his parents were okay and that their homes had not sustained the damage originally predicted. He also was able to realize that while others were also as fortunate as him, many weren’t and needed support in one way or another. The people of Puerto Rico used this as an opportunity to unite with a collective spirit and provide each other with whatever was needed, be it some water to drink or a shoulder to lean on.

“When you see people giving generators and food for those who don’t have it, you can see how people are coming together to get better and help each other,” Gotay stated. “Many people are sharing food and water and other things, and that’s when you know our people on the island are getting stronger.”

He also noted, “You don’t just want people to help each other when there is a tragedy like this. You want to see it on a daily basis. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for everybody to get together daily and help each other out.”

Gotay-Follow-Through

Much of Fajardo has regained power, at least 75% according to Gotay, and Puerto Rico as a whole is continuing to recover from the storm. However, the work is not nearly complete. Repairs from historic storms such as Irma and Maria would take extensive time in any location, and the island is not as easily equipped to respond to such devastation as other areas would be. As the holiday season approaches, Gotay, who turns 35 on Christmas Day, remarks that his fellow residents are all trying to regain a sense of normalcy.

“Are things getting better? Absolutely,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that the whole island is better. We still need water, food and first aid to some people in Puerto Rico. Some towns still have no power. It’s still tough for us to feel happy when you know of some families around the island are still not getting the stuff they need.

“It’s not easy to concentrate on celebrating Christmas when you know others aren’t. We are trying to have as normal of a Christmas as possible, but it’s tough to do. You have to keep going and help other people as much as you can.”

Another way Puerto Rico is trying to return to normalcy is through baseball. Many of its stadiums that host Caribbean Winter League baseball were badly damaged by the storms. The inability to repair them quickly enough prevented the season from beginning on its originally scheduled date of October 27. However, rather than cancel the season outright, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente decided it would shorten its season to 21 games, begin it on January 6 and not charge any admission to fans. When asked about the decision, Gotay expressed a range of emotions.

“It was a tough choice to have the season because it’s not that easy for people to make it to the field,” he opined. “It is not easy to have a league in this situation, but at the same time, I’m happy that this is happening so that people can get away from everything that’s been happening in their houses and on the streets, go to the field and enjoy a good game. When the directors and baseball people in Puerto Rico got together, they said they needed to do this to show that Puerto Rico is strong.”

Much like Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey this year, Puerto Ricans have displayed tremendous resolve and spirit during one of the worst times in its history. The Astros brought Houston a World Series championship in the wake of Harvey, which, in turn, brought the city even closer together. Perhaps Puerto Rico will follow suit and keep the Caribbean Series title, which it won last winter, on the island.

Game 32: Ducks vs. Bluefish

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GAME TIME/LOCATION: 6:35 p.m. at Bethpage Ballpark (Central Islip, NY)

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Long Island Ducks (18-13) look to bounce back at home against the Bridgeport Bluefish (11-20) after falling 5-1 in game one of the series Tuesday. The Ducks have won three of four this season against Bridgeport with tonight marking game five of the 2016 Ferry Cup Series.

YESTERDAY’S RESULT: Mark Blackmar’s sensational performance on the mound did not result in a win for the Ducks as Long Island dropped a 5-1 decision to Bridgeport. Blackmar shut out the Bluefish over seven innings, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out two. Bridgeport starter Mike Antonini also pitched well, keeping Long Island off of the scoreboard over six innings.

The break-even inning for Bridgeport came in the top of the eighth. Ducks southpaw Eury De La Rosa fell into trouble when a catcher’s interference with two outs loaded the bases. The next batter, Josh Vitters, worked the count all the way back from 0-2 to 3-2 and walked to bring in the game’s first run. With a 1-0 lead and the bases still loaded, Luis Domoromo lined a bases-clearing double to give Bridgeport a 4-0 lead. Despite the damage done against De La Rosa, none of the runs surrendered were earned.

Looking to sprout a comeback, Ducks center fielder Lew Ford cranked a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning to cut the deficit to 4-1. However, Bridgeport added another run in the ninth to go ahead 5-1.

Offensively, Ducks third baseman Cody Puckett added two hits, while catcher Mike Blanke extended his hitting streak to five games.

With the Ducks loss and a Somerset loss to Sugar Land, Long Island remains in second place in the Liberty Division.

ON THE MOUND: Long Island Ducks veteran pitcher John Brownell returns to the mound for his fifth start of the season. Brownell is 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA, putting together wins over Sugar Land and Southern Maryland. Tonight marks the first time he faces Bridgeport this season. In 2015, Brownell won four of his seven starts against the Bluefish. The veteran is just four innings shy of tying Randy Leek for the all-time franchise record for innings pitched (587.1). He also needs two more wins to tie Leek’s record of 40.

Bridgeport’s R.J. Hively makes his seventh start of the season and his second against the Ducks. The 27-year-old right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.09 ERA. In his first meeting against the Flock on May 8, Hively coughed up five runs on four hits in five and one-third innings in the loss. Hively spent 2015 with Arizona Diamondbacks affiliates in the California League (A+), Southern League (AA), and Pacific Coast League (AAA). The Palm Desert, California native began his professional career in 2012 after being selected in the 19th round of the MLB Draft by Arizona.

FOLLOW ALONG: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Live streaming video and audio will be available online by CLICKING HERE. In addition to updates in this post, fans can follow a pitch-by-pitch account of tonight’s game via Pointstreak’s Game Live application by CLICKING HERE.

DUCKS GAME NOTES: For tonight’s full Ducks game notes, please CLICK HERE.

Ducks
#22 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#20 Lew Ford – CF
#32 Tyler Colvin – DH
#25 Sean Burroughs – 1B
#15 Ruben Gotay – 2B
#29 Mike Dowd – C
#6 Blake Tekotte – LF
#17 Matt Wessinger – 3B

#7 John Brownell – RHP

Bluefish
#2 Luis Hernandez – SS
#13 Jose Cuevas – 2B
#26 Dan Johnson – 1B
#17 Josh Vitters – 3B
#16 Luis Domoromo – RF
#29 Jonathan Galvez – DH
#4 Anthony Giansanti – CF
#14 Rossmel Perez – C
#23 Luis Nunez – LF

#27 R. J. Hively – RHP

UPDATE (7:15): END 2: No score between the Ducks and the Bluefish. Dan Lyons with a single so far for Long Island.

UPDATE (7:35): BOT 3: Lew Ford homers! It’s a two-run shot over the right field fence. Ducks plate three in the inning to take a 3-0 lead over the Bluefish.

UPDATE (7:42): TOP 4: Ducks pitcher John Brownell has tied Randy Leek for the all-time franchise mark for innings (587.1). LI leads Bridgeport 3-0.

UPDATE (7:53): TOP 5: With the first out of the inning, Ducks pitcher John Brownell is the all-time franchise leader in career innings with 587.2!

UPDATE (8:11): BOT 5: Tyler Colvin’s first home run with the Ducks is a grand slam! Long Island leads the Bluefish 7-0.

UPDATE (8:37): BOT 6: The Ducks grab four runs on six hits to take an 11-0 lead over the Bluefish. LI hit three doubles, while Lentini tripled in two runs.

UPDATE (8:57): TOP 7: The Bluefish score five runs in the inning to pull within six runs. The Ducks still lead 11-5.

UPDATE (9:37) BOT 8: The Ducks explode for four more runs including a two-run triple from Mike Dowd. Long Island leads 15-5 over the Bluefish.

UPDATE (10:05): FINAL: The Ducks beat the Bluefish 15-5 thanks to 20 Long Island hits. Dan Lyons was 5-5 with 3 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R. Ducks improve to 19-13.

LDCS Game 2: Ducks vs. Patriots

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The Ducks and Patriots have a knack for playing tight ballgames. Wednesday night’s contest was no different, as the two teams played Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series at Bethpage Ballpark. Unfortunately for the Flock, the Pats came out on top in a 5-3 final. Long Island lacked timely hitting, as they combined to leave 15 runners on base in the difficult two-run defeat. Somerset now leads the best-of-five series one game to none.

Ducks starter John Brownell struggled against the Patriots during the regular season, going 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA in three starts. That trend continued in Wednesday’s postseason opener, as the Pats posted their first run in the opening frame. Michael Burgess, who had a dominant night at the plate, hit a RBI triple into the right field corner to give Somerset a quick 1-0 lead. The Ducks did post one run in the second and third inning, giving Brownell a lead. A run-scoring throwing error by Patriots second baseman Greg Hopkins plated Dan Lyons in the second to tie the ballgame. One inning later, Sean Burroughs’ RBI single to left off Roy Merritt gave Long Island their first lead. However, the road team was quick to respond. Matt Fields’ solo homer in the fourth tied the ballgame, 2-2. The low liner narrowly made its way over the wall in left field. In the fifth, Somerset went in front for good with a three-spot. Thomas Neal’s RBI single to left plated the first run of the frame. One batter later, Burgess hit a towering two-run homer to right, giving the Pats a 5-2 advantage. He would finish a double shy of the cycle in the contest. By that point, the Ducks’ scoring had dried up. The team scratched out one run in the seventh on a run-scoring wild pitch thrown by Patriots reliever Buddy Boshers. Trailing 5-3, the Flock left the bases loaded twice over the final three innings, stranding eight total runners after their final run crossed. Closer Jon Hunton got Elmer Reyes to fly out to right field with the bases loaded in the ninth to end the game.

Brownell suffered the loss and was responsible for all of Somerset’s runs. He allowed five through six innings while walking and striking out two. Nick Struck, Patrick Crider, Mariel Checo, Ricardo Gomez, and J.C. Romero combined to hold the Patriots scoreless over the final three innings. They allowed just two hits. Fehlandt Lentini and Burroughs each had three hits in the series opener. The Ducks outhit Somerset 10-9 in the loss, but leaving 15 runners on base proved to be costly. Long Island went 1-15 with runners in scoring position, 0-4 with the bases loaded, and 1-10 with six walks with two outs. Comparatively, Somerset went 2-7 with runners in scoring position and 4-12 with a double, triple, homer, four RBI, and three walks with two outs. They did not load the bases.

CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from the LDCS opener
CLICK HERE to watch postgame interviews with Kevin Baez, John Brownell, and Fehlandt Lentini
CLICK HERE to view Wednesday’s box score

Game Two of the LDCS will be played in Central Islip before as many games as necessary will be played in Bridgewater at TD Bank Ballpark through Sunday. Darin Downs looks to help Long Island bounce back on Thursday night. The southpaw ended the regular season 4-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts. He surrendered 30 runs (29 earned) on 61 hits through 67 and two-thirds innings, walking 30 and striking out 55. Three of Downs’ starts came against the Patriots. In those three outings, the former big leaguer went 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA, giving up 12 runs (11 earned) on 17 hits in 16 frames. He also walked 12 and struck out 11, with an opponent average of .288. Both of his losses against Somerset came at Bethpage Ballpark in July.

The Patriots send Mickey Storey to the hill in hopes of taking a two-game lead in the series. Overall, the former big leaguer went 12-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts, finishing tied with John Brownell for the league lead in wins. Through 106 and two-thirds innings, the hurler allowed 32 runs (30 earned) on 84 hits while walking 19 and striking out 85. Storey finished the regular season pitching incredibly well. In his final nine starts, the righty went 8-1 and did not pitch less than five innings in any outing. He won every start from August 1-September 18, with his last loss coming on July 26. However, the Ducks did hand Storey his first loss of the season back on July 11 in Somerset. In a 4-3 win, Long Island got to the starter for four runs on six hits in six innings. In his last three starts, Storey has surrendered just one run on nine hits in 18 innings, striking out 16 batters in that time.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Historic Season: The Ducks finished the 2015 regular season with 80 wins. That total marks the second-most ever in franchise history. The only higher win total was 82, accomplished during the team’s first season in 2000 when the Ducks went 82-58. In addition, Long Island set a franchise 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.

Home Cooking: The Ducks finished their home schedule this season with an Atlantic League-best 48-22 record. Their .686 home winning percentage was 43 percentage points better than any other team (Lancaster, .643, 45-25). The 48 home victories were the third-most in franchise history for a single season. The only two greater totals were in 2000 (49-27) and in 2011 (51-20).

Game Two Notes: The Ducks have won each of their past four Game Two matchups. Long Island took Game Two of both playoff series in 2013, including the Atlantic League Championship Series against Somerset at Bethpage Ballpark, and both Game Two matchups during the 2012 playoffs. All-time, the Ducks have a 6-7 record in Game Two of a postseason series, including a 4-4 record at home.

Sugar, We’re Going Downs: Game Two starter Darin Downs enters the playoffs having thrown five consecutive quality starts to finish the regular season. In those five outings, the southpaw compiled a 2-2 record with a 3.19 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs in 31 innings of work. He gave up 30 hits and nine walks in that span while striking out 28 batters. Dating back to August 6, Downs has made seven quality starts in his last eight outings, compiling a 3.24 ERA in that stretch.

Three’s Company: Fehlandt Lentini and Sean Burroughs both had three hits to lead the Ducks in Game One. During the regular season, Burroughs collected seven three-hit contests while Lentini had six. Burroughs ended the year with 15 multi-hit games, while Lentini compiled 17 in his second season with the Flock.

Oh, What a Relief They Are: Five Ducks relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to close out the game. Nick Struck, Patrick Crider, Mariel Checo, Ricardo Gomez and J.C. Romero combined to give up just two hits and one walk in that span while striking out five batters. Struck ended the regular season with 14 scoreless appearances in his last 15 outings, while Romero tossed seven straight scoreless outings and did not give up a run in 11 of his last 12 games.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Live streaming video and audio will 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:

Ducks

#22 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – LF
#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

#23 Darin Downs – LHP

Patriots

#13 Robert Andino – SS
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#24 Thomas Neal – DH
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#16 Matt Fields – 1B
#8 David Vidal – C
#20 Greg Hopkins – 3B
#3 Nate Spears – 2B
#6 Jonny Tucker – CF

#7 Mickey Storey – RHP

Check back here for updates all evening long as the Ducks and Patriots continue the 2015 LDCS from Bethpage Ballpark! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:40): TOP 1: Darin Downs fires his first pitch and Game Two of the LDCS is underway from the Duck Pond!

UPDATE (7:07): BOT 2: The Ducks take a 1-0 lead on Cody Puckett’s sacrifice fly to center!

UPDATE (7:41): BOT 4: Dan Lyons with LI’s second sacrifice fly of the ballgame and Cody Puckett with a RBI single to left! 3-0 Flock!

UPDATE (8:40): TOP 8: Darin Downs is done for the night. Final line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. Not bad. Ducks still lead 3-0!

UPDATE (8:44): TOP 8: Robert Andino’s RBI single to right makes it a 3-1 ballgame.

UPDATE (8:56): TOP 8: Patriots take a 4-3 lead after a Sean Burroughs error and a two-run double from Matt Fields with the bases loaded.

UPDATE (9:09): BOT 8: Ducks tie the game! A wild pitch thrown by Daniel Sattler allows Lentini to score from third! 4-4!

UPDATE (9:16): BOT 8: Ducks retake the lead, 5-4!!! Sean Burroughs with a RBI single that bounces into right field!

UPDATE (9:23): FINAL: Ducks win!!! 5-4 is the final, as J.C. Romero completes the win in the ninth! Series now tied 1-1 going to Somerset.

LDCS Game 1: Ducks vs. Patriots

Field

During the 2015 regular season, the Ducks finished with a winning record against five of seven teams. One of those teams was their opponent in the upcoming Liberty Division Championship Series, the Somerset Patriots. Somerset posted a league-record 50 wins in the first half of play, eventually taking first place in the Liberty Division in both halves with an overall record of 89-50. However, the Ducks played some of their best games of the season with the Pats, finishing with an 11-9 record against their rivals.

Long Island held the upper hand over the Patriots through the first 11 games of the season series, amassing a 7-4 record in that time. Coincidentally, one of the Ducks’ most thrilling finishes all year came in a 6-5 win on July 4 at Bethpage Ballpark thanks to a monster night from Randy Ruiz. The former big leaguer socked Long Island’s only grand slam of the season and picked up the game-winning hit in the ninth to help the Ducks walk off in front of 7,443 fans, the second-largest crowd in team history. However, over the final nine games of the season series, Somerset began to find ways to win. They were good enough for a 5-1 record against the Flock from July 18-August 17 to lead into the final three games between the teams. In a crucial road trip to close out the season slate, the Ducks won the final three games after dropping the opener at TD Bank Ballpark. One of those wins was a 1-0 victory in 13 innings on August 19, with Cody Puckett plating the lone run of the contest on a sacrifice fly. The night before, Long Island rallied for four runs in the ninth with two outs to earn an 8-7 win.

One run decided 10 of the 20 games played between the two teams this season. The largest margin of victory for either side was five runs (9-4 Ducks win on July 5 and 7-2 Ducks win on July 12). The Ducks also did not lose a game to Somerset by more than three runs this year. All of these stats indicate that the LDCS is sure to be highly competitive, as two talented division rivals fight their way to the Atlantic League Championship Series.

On the mound for the Ducks in the series opener will be their ace, John Brownell. The righty enters the postseason with great regular season numbers, having pitched 175 and two-thirds innings in 26 starts. In that span, he allowed 72 runs (66 earned) on 152 hits for a 3.38 ERA. Brownell walked 47 batters and struck out a league-high 146. That is also a career-high in K’s for the Omaha native and a Ducks single-season record. Despite yet another strong campaign, the fourth-year Duck struggled against the Patriots during the regular season. In three starts, Brownell allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 19 hits in 16 innings, finishing with an 0-1 record and 7.31 ERA. The Patriots hit .279 against him. However, those numbers are slightly misleading. In two of his three starts against Somerset (both in Bridgewater, N.J.), Brownell allowed all of his runs in one inning. On May 27, the Ducks won a 7-6 game, and all six of Somerset’s runs came on six hits in the fourth inning. In the other five innings he threw, Brownell surrendered just one hit. On August 18, the Flock also won by a single run, and all six of the runs scored against the righty came one inning, the fifth. Brownell gave up just one hit in the other four innings he threw. Historically, he has had great success against the Pats in the postseason. In the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series, Brownell won both Game One and Game Five over Somerset, helping the Ducks lift their third-ever Atlantic League trophy.

Opposing Brownell will be Roy Merritt. The southpaw has pitched for both Somerset and Sugar Land in 2015, spending most of the season in Texas after pitching the three previous seasons in New Jersey. He was traded to Sugar Land in early April before being reacquired on August 31. Merritt ended the regular season 8-6 with a 2.88 ERA in 21 games (19 starts). Two of his 19 starts came with the Patriots. In 112 and one-third innings, the Houston native allowed 38 runs (36 earned) on 104 hits while walking 20 and striking out 75. All of his appearances this season against the Ducks came in a Skeeters uniform. In three starts, the 30-year-old went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA. The game Merritt lost came in Central Islip on June 18, a 2-0 Ducks victory. The lefty pitched well, giving up the pair of runs on five hits in seven innings of work. In 20 innings overall, the Flock put together five runs on 16 hits against the former New York Mets prospect. In 2013, Merritt’s only decision of the five-game Championship Series between Somerset and Long Island came in Game Two. The Ducks came from behind to defeat the Pats 3-2, as Merritt suffered the loss, yielding all three runs in the sixth inning.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

The Faithful Flock: Since the Ducks’ inaugural season of 2000, the team has welcomed 6,639,533 fans through the gates of Bethpage Ballpark, which is an Atlantic League record. Long Island has also hosted 11 sold out crowds this year and 650 all-time, which is a league record as well. The Ducks led the Atlantic League in total attendance this year at 358,317 and average attendance at 5,269.

Postseason Bound: With the Somerset Patriots defeating the Bridgeport Bluefish on Tuesday, September 15, the Ducks clinched a berth in the 2015 Atlantic League playoffs. They enter the playoffs as a Wild Card winner by sporting the best overall record in the league after Somerset, who won both halves. It marks the 10th time in the last 12 seasons that the Ducks have earned a playoff berth, with 2010 and 2014 as the only exceptions. Long Island’s last two postseason trips have resulted in Atlantic League championships (2012, 2013).

Historic Season: The Ducks finished the 2015 regular season with 80 wins. That total marks the second-most ever in franchise history. The only higher win total was 82, accomplished during the team’s first season in 2000 when the Ducks went 82-58. In addition, Long Island set a franchise 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.

Home Cooking: The Ducks finished their home schedule this season with an Atlantic League-best 48-22 record. Their .686 home winning percentage was 43 percentage points better than any other team (Lancaster, .643, 45-25). The 48 home victories were the third-most in franchise history for a single season. The only two greater totals were in 2000 (49-27) and in 2011 (51-20).

What Can Brown-ell Do For You?: Game One starter John Brownell finished the season as the Atlantic League leader in several categories. The right-hander posted league-best totals in wins (12), strikeouts (146), innings pitched (175.2), complete games (4) and shutouts (2). In addition, he finished tied for second in games started (26) and ranked fifth in ERA (3.38). While with the Ducks, Brownell has a career postseason record of 4-0 with a 2.87 and 27 strikeouts in five starts.

Back with the Flock: Lew Ford has earned at least one hit in six of the seven games that he has played since rejoining the Ducks following his stint in Mexico. In those seven games, he is batting .357 (10-for-28) with one double, five RBI and three runs scored. Dating back to June 30, Ford has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games and has reached base safely in 34 of his last 35 contests.

Randy’s Dandy: Randy Ruiz enters the postseason on a five-game hitting streak. In addition, he has earned at least one hit in 15 of his last 16 games with an at-bat. In those 16 contests dating back to August 28, Ruiz is batting .394 (26-for-66) with four doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI and nine runs scored.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Live streaming audio will be available online by CLICKING HERE. Michael Polak and David Weiss 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:

Ducks

#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

#7 John Brownell – RHP

Patriots

#13 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
#6 Jonny Tucker – CF
#21 Adam Donachie – C

#15 Roy Merritt – LHP

Keep it here for updates all evening long as the Ducks and Patriots kick off the 2015 Liberty Division Championship Series from Bethpage Ballpark! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:53): TOP 1: Michael Burgess’ RBI triple to right makes it 1-0 Patriots.

UPDATE (7:21): BOT 2: A throwing error by Greg Hopkins scores Dan Lyons! Tie game, 1-1!

UPDATE (7:38): BOT 3: Sean Burroughs’ RBI single to left puts the Ducks in front, 2-1! First and second, one out, Lyons at the plate.

UPDATE (7:48): TOP 4: Matt Fields hits a solo homer to left to tie the ballgame, 2-2.

UPDATE (8:09): TOP 5: Thomas Neal drops a RBI single into left to give the Pats a 3-2 lead.

UPDATE (8:10): TOP 5: Michael Burgess hits a two-run homer to right and Somerset pulls ahead 5-2.

UPDATE (8:52): BOT 7: A run-scoring wild pitch helps the Flock inch closer! 5-3 Somerset.

UPDATE (9:59): FINAL: Ducks fall 5-3 in Game One of the LDCS. Game Two tomorrow at 6:35 back at Bethpage Ballpark.

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