Long Island’s offense has racked up 10 runs and 23 hits over the past two games
7:05 p.m. at TD Bank Ballpark (Bridgewater, N.J.)
The Long Island Ducks take on the Somerset Patriots in Game Four of the Liberty Division Championship Series. They now hold a two games to one lead in the best-of-five series following a 6-1 win in Game Three on Friday night. The regular season series between Long Island and Somerset was remarkably competitive, with the Ducks claiming 11 victories and the Patriots nine. This marks the third straight year that the two rivals have met in the opening round of the playoffs, with each team having won one playoff series. It’s also the fourth time in five years they are facing in the postseason going back to the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series, which the Ducks won in five games.
An incredible performance by Ducks starter Jake Fisher in the first postseason start of his professional career helped the Ducks to a 6-1 victory in Game Three and a 2-1 lead in the Liberty Division Championship Series.
The southpaw was terrific throughout, mixing up his pitches and location to keep the Patriots off-balance and showcasing a terrific breaking ball. In his nine innings, Fisher allowed just six hits and two walks while striking out nine batters, his most in a Ducks uniform and two shy of his season-high. The 27-year-old threw a total of 115 pitches in the outing, 83 of which were strikes (72.2%). Fisher actually came within one out of becoming the first Duck to ever toss a complete game shutout in the postseason, but he allowed a single to Kyle Roller and an RBI double by David Vidal off the glove of Lew Ford to miss the opportunity.
Long Island’s offense gave their starting pitcher some early comfort, as they plated three runs in the first inning against Patriots starter William Oliver. The Ducks opened the game with four consecutive singles, including a chopper by Ford over the head of Vidal and an RBI single to left-center by Marc Krauss. Angelo Songco drove in the third run of the inning with a fielder’s choice grounder to first base.
Oliver settled in to keep the Ducks off the scoreboard over the next four innings, but Long Island was able to firmly put the game out of reach in the sixth. Alex Burg, who collected his third consecutive multi-hit game in the postseason, doubled to left to begin the inning. Following a sacrifice bunt and a flyout to shallow right, Dan Lyons came through with a two-out RBI single through the left side. Giovanny Alfonzo followed with an RBI double off the wall in left-center that stretched the lead to 5-0.
Anthony Vega rounded out the scoring for the Flock in the eighth with a two-out solo home run over the wall in right off reliever Kyler Newby. Long Island finished the night with 14 hits in the game, as eight of their nine batters registering at least one hit and five turning in multi-hit performances. Krauss led the way with three hits, while Alfonzo, Ford, Burg and Elmer Reyes each added two.
GAME THREE HIGHLIGHTS:
ON THE MOUND:
For the second night in a row, the Ducks will send a Jake to the mound. Jake Dunning will start for the Flock in Game Four of the LDCS, as he makes his first postseason start in a Ducks uniform. The right-hander made 14 appearances (seven starts) with the Ducks in 2017, compiling a 2-3 record with a 3.64 ERA and 43 strikeouts to 14 walks in 49 and one-third innings. He tossed six scoreless innings against the Bridgeport Bluefish on September 10 and began his final outing of the year with six innings of one-run ball on September 16 in Sugar Land. However, he was tagged for three runs in the seventh that caused him to take the loss in a 5-3 defeat. Dunning worked out of a bases loaded, no-out jam in the second to allow just one run on a groundout. In the seventh though, he surrendered back-to-back singles and a two-run triple by Joe Benson. The bullpen then conceded two more runs. Tonight will be the former big leaguer’s first-ever outing against the Patriots.
Somerset will send Patrick Johnson to the mound, in need of a win to keep their season alive. The right-hander made seven appearances (five starts) with the Patriots and posted a 2-2 record with a 4.76 ERA and 28 strikeouts to eight walks in 22 and two-thirds innings. His ERA is a bit inflated from his second outing, where he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits in one and two-thirds innings to the York Revolution. However, since then, 29-year-old has given up only four runs over 20 innings across five games (1.80 ERA). In his last start, he allowed a run on four hits over five innings while striking out five in a 9-2 win at Bridgeport in the regular season finale. Johnson has faced the Ducks just once, coming in his first outing with Somerset. He threw a scoreless inning as the starter in game one of a doubleheader on August 16 but gave up two walks and hit a batter in the frame.
Fans can follow all the action for tonight’s game, and every Ducks playoff game in 2017, on the Long Island Ducks Broadcast Network. Streaming HD video and audio via BoxCast will be available on the team’s official Facebook page through Facebook Live, on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel and at LIDucks.com in the Video Center. 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.
Long Island Ducks
#6 Giovanny Alfonzo – 3B
#13 Elmer Reyes – 2B
#20 Lew Ford – LF
#34 Marc Krauss – 1B
#26 Angelo Songco – DH
#23 Alex Burg – C
#5 Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#11 Anthony Vega – RF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#45 Jake Dunning – RHP
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#8 Alfredo Rodriguez – SS
#19 Olmo Rosario – RF
#40 Kyle Roller – DH
#14 David Vidal – 3B
#5 D’Vontrey Richardson – CF
#13 Carlos Guzman – 1B
#4 Yovan Gonzalez – C
#15 Justin Trapp – 2B
#34 Patrick Johnson – RHP
LIVE GAME UPDATES:
UPDATE (7:21): END 1: Both pitchers work a scoreless first inning to begin Game Four.
UPDATE (7:42): BOT 2: Jake Dunning escapes a second-and-third, no-out jam to keep Somerset off the scoreboard! A 5-4-3 double play ends the inning!
UPDATE (7:57): TOP 3: A bunt single coupled with a fielding error scores Delta Cleary Jr., and Giovanny Alfonzo delivers an RBI single! Ducks take a 2-0 lead!
UPDATE (8:07): BOT 3: Dunning escapes again! After allowing a pair of two-out singles, he strikes out Kyle Roller for the second time tonight!
UPDATE (8:46): END 5: Five scoreless innings thus far from Jake Dunning to protect Long Island’s 2-0 lead! He has struck out three.
UPDATE (9:00): TOP 6: Angelo Songco laces an RBI double to right-center, scoring Marc Krauss to extend the lead to 3-0!
UPDATE (9:17): BOT 6: Somerset gets on the scoreboard thanks to a two-out infield single from Carlos Guzman. Ducks lead is now 3-1.
UPDATE (10:11): BOT 8: Somerset rallies for a pair of two-out runs to tie up the ballgame. 3-3 as we head to the ninth.
UPDATE (10:40): BALLGAME OVER! Ducks score in the top of the ninth and win it 4-3! They take the series 3-1 and are the 2017 Liberty Division champions!!
The Ducks wrap up the 2017 regular season on Sunday afternoon in Texas
2:05 p.m. CDT at Constellation Field (Sugar Land, Texas)
The Long Island Ducks (37-32; 73-66) close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon with the rubber game of their three-game series against the Sugar Land Skeeters (36-33; 66-73). Long Island clinched the Second Half Liberty Division title and a postseason berth on Saturday night thanks to a 5-2 loss by the Bridgeport Bluefish against the Somerset Patriots. Sugar Land was officially eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday night. Today is the 20th and final meeting of the year between the Ducks and Skeeters, with Long Island holding a 10-9 advantage.
The Ducks dropped the middle game of their three-game series to the Sugar Land Skeeters by a 5-3 margin but clinched a playoff berth in the process thanks to Bridgeport’s loss to Somerset.
The Second Half Liberty Division champions earned their seventh second half division title in team history and first since 2013, as well as their 12th half-season title overall. This marks their third consecutive trip to the playoffs and 12th in team history, all coming in the past 14 seasons. Long Island will be seeking its sixth Division Championship and fourth Atlantic League title in franchise history.
In Saturday’s game, the Ducks opened the scoring in the first inning. Giovanny Alfonzo singled to open the game and eventually scored when Marc Krauss hit a grounder to first. Travis Scott’s throw was dropped by Kevin Ahrens at second base to ensure Alfonzo would score on the play. Sugar Land answered in the second to tie the game at one, as they loaded the bases with nobody out against Jake Dunning. However, all they could muster was a groundout to first by Wilfredo Rodriguez that scored Scott.
Both starter locked in a pitcher’s duel from that point on. Mitch Talbot tossed six innings of one-run ball for the Skeeters, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Dunning (2-3) gave up just one run over his first six innings while striking out five. He came back out for the seventh though and ran into trouble.
Following back-to-back one-out singles by Anthony Giansanti and Rodriguez, Joe Benson lined a two-run triple down the right field line to give the Skeeters the lead. A passed ball on a pitch by Rob Rogers allowed Benson to score Sugar Land’s fourth run, and a two-out RBI double by Cole Gillespie made it a 5-1 game. Dunning was charged with three runs in the inning, while Dustin Richardson, who came in for a fourth consecutive game and walked Caleb Ramsey, was charged with the other.
Long Island nearly rallied back in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Jordan Hinshaw drew a leadoff walk against Scott Maine, and Angelo Songco launched a two-run home run two batters later to close the gap to 5-3. However, Felipe Paulino came in and struck out pinch-hitter Audie Afenir and Delta Cleary Jr. to end the game.
ON THE MOUND:
Tyler Levine will take the mound for the Ducks in the series finale. The right-hander is looking to bounce back from his most difficult start of the year back on September 1 against New Britain. He allowed four home runs in the outing and surrendered 11 runs on 11 hits in four innings to take the loss. 10 of the 11 runs came on the homers. Overall, Levine is 3-2 with a 6.05 ERA in 22 games (seven starts). Today will be his fifth appearance of the season but first start against the Skeeters. He has a 1-0 record and a 5.06 ERA against Sugar Land, allowing five runs (three earned) on 10 hits in five and one-third innings.
Long Island will get its first look at Alberto Rodriguez, who makes the start in the season finale for the Skeeters. The right-hander has a 2.70 ERA through two starts with the Skeeters but has picked up a no-decision in both. He went five innings in his most recent outing on September 10 in New Britain, allowing three runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts in a 7-3 win for the Skeeters. The Cuba native began the year with the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association and went 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA and 95 strikeouts to 51 walks in 21 games (13 starts). He spent two previous seasons (2014-15) with rookie-level Idaho Falls in the Kansas City Royals organization.
Fans can follow all the action for today’s game, and every Ducks game in 2017, on the Long Island Ducks Broadcast Network. Streaming HD video and audio via BoxCast will be available on the team’s official Facebook page through Facebook Live, on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel and at LIDucks.com in the Video Center. In addition to updates in this post, fans can follow a pitch-by-pitch account of today’s game via Pointstreak’s Game Live application by CLICKING HERE.
DUCKS GAME NOTES:
For today’s full Ducks game notes, please CLICK HERE.
Long Island Ducks
#6 Giovanny Alfonzo – 2B
#5 Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#26 Angelo Songco – 1B
#34 Marc Krauss – DH
#30 Ruben Gotay – 3B
#19 Derrick Pyles – RF
#24 Audie Afenir – C
#28 Jordan Hinshaw – LF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#18 Tyler Levine – RHP
Sugar Land Skeeters
#7 Josh Prince – 2B
#33 Caleb Ramsey – 1B
#11 Cole Gillespie – CF
#15 Bryan Pounds – 3B
#21 Anthony Giansanti – DH
#9 Wilfredo Rodriguez – C
#5 Joe Benson – RF
#18 Dickie Thon – LF
#12 Carlos Hughes – SS
#27 Alberto Rodriguez – RHP
LIVE GAME UPDATES:
UPDATE (2:26): BOT 1: Skeeters get a run on a sac fly by Anthony Giansanti, but Tyler Levine record three straight outs after allowing three singles.
UPDATE (2:44): BOT 2: Levine strikes out the side in the second, getting Benson and Hughes swinging and Prince looking!
UPDATE (3:03): BOT 3: A two-out RBI double by Wilfredo Rodriguez extends the Skeeters’ lead to 2-0.
UPDATE (3:41): BOT 5: Back-to-back scoreless innings for Levine, who has allowed just two runs over five. Skeeters still hold a 2-0 lead.
UPDATE (3:58): BOT 6: Patrick Crider comes into the game and retires Sugar Land 1-2-3 in the sixth!
UPDATE (4:28): BOT 7: A two-run home run to right field by Caleb Ramsey doubles Sugar Land’s lead to 4-0.
UPDATE (4:45): TOP 8: Ducks have closed to within two on an RBI double by Delta Cleary Jr. & an RBI single by Angelo Songco! Two on and two out in the frame.
UPDATE (5:03): BOT 8: Sac flies from Dickie Thon and Caleb Ramsey restore the four-run advantage for Sugar Land at 6-2.
UPDATE (5:11): FINAL: Skeeters hang on for the 6-2 victory. We’ll see you at Bethpage Ballpark on Wednesday night for Game One of the playoffs!
GAME TIME/LOCATION: 6:35 p.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium (Waldorf, Md.)
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Long Island Ducks begin their quest for a fourth Atlantic League championship tonight when they face the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs to kick off the 2017 regular season. Long Island enters its 18th season in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, while Southern Maryland celebrates its 10th Anniversary Season this year.
2016 RECAP: Last season saw the Ducks clinch their second consecutive postseason berth and 11th in the past 13 seasons by virtue of winning the First Half Liberty Division title with a record of 40-30. The Ducks went on to face the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division Championship Series and rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the series to win three consecutive games at home and take the series. It marked Long Island’s fifth division championship all-time and fourth in the past six seasons. The Ducks then faced the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League Championship Series but ultimately fell in three games, as the Skeeters completed a 6-0 postseason run for their first-ever ALPB championship.
Southern Maryland will look to rebound after a difficult season in 2016. One year removed from winning the Freedom Division championship, the Blue Crabs compiled a 57-83 record this past season. They finished at the rear of the pack in the Freedom Division during both halves due to struggles both on the mound and at the plate. This offseason, they welcomed a new manager in John Harris, who previously served as a hitting coach with the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2015. Last year, he was the Director of Player Procurement for the Trois-Rivieres Aigles in the Can-Am League.
ON THE MOUND: For the fourth consecutive season, the Ducks will hand the ball to John Brownell on Opening Day. Though he did not repeat as the Atlantic League’s Pitcher of the Year in 2016, he certainly made a strong case for his candidacy. The right-hander compiled a 10-8 record with a 3.30 ERA, tying for fourth in the league in wins and ranking sixth in ERA. In addition, he led the league with six complete games, had the third-most strikeouts (147) and was fifth in games started (25). The 33-year-old enters the 2017 season as the Ducks’ all-time leader in wins (46), games started (109), innings pitched (729.1) and strikeouts (571). In 2016, Brownell posted a 2-2 record with a 2.63 ERA and 25 strikeouts to just three walks in four starts against the Blue Crabs.
Southern Maryland will send five-year Major League veteran Justin De Fratus to the mound to begin the season. The righty comes to the Blue Crabs having pitched at the game’s highest level with Phillies from 2011-2015, compiling an MLB record of 7-6 with a 4.08 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 191 relief appearances. In 2016, he pitched at Triple-A with the Rangers, Mariners and Nationals organizations, as well as a brief stint with Washington’s Double-A affiliate. The 29-year-old combined to make 45 appearances and went 5-6 with a 3.72 ERA, one save and 43 strikeouts in 58 innings. Tonight will be his Atlantic League debut.
FOLLOW ALONG: Fans can follow all the action for tonight’s game, and every Ducks game in 2017, with live streaming HD video and audio via BoxCast. The game can be viewed on the team’s official Facebook page through Facebook Live, on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel or at LIDucks.com in the Video Center. 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.
#24 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#5 Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#20 Nolan Reimold – LF
#34 Marc Krauss – DH
#35 Nate Freiman – 1B
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#23 Alex Burg – C
#13 Elmer Reyes – 2B
#7 John Brownell – RHP
#7 Gary Brown – CF
#15 Danny Muno – 2B
#29 Zach Wilson – 1B
#16 Michael Snyder – DH
#27 Cory Vaughn – LF
#23 Zach Cone – RF
#24 Mike Blanke – C
#6 Patrick Palmeiro – 3B
#9 Edwin Garcia – SS
#12 Justin De Fratus – RHP
UPDATE (6:43): TOP 1: Ducks take advantage of a dropped fly ball, and Nate Freiman delivers a two-out RBI single! 1-0 Flock!
UPDATE (7:08): Swing and a miss! Swing and a miss! Swing and a miss! John Brownell strikes out the side swinging in the second!
UPDATE (7:32): TOP 4: Long Island takes advantage of another error, and Delta Cleary Jr. delivers a two-out RBI single! 2-0 Ducks!
UPDATE (7:43): BOT 4: Southern Maryland gets on the board courtesy of a sac fly to left off the bat of Zach Cone. 2-1 Ducks.
UPDATE (8:18): BOT 6: Zac Treece relieves Brownell & pitches a scoreless inning! Brownell’s final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
UPDATE (8:29): TOP 7: Cody Puckett is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Cleary Jr. trots home to give the Ducks a 3-1 lead!
UPDATE (8:54): The umpires have called for the tarp after seven innings. We have our first rain delay of 2017. Ducks lead 3-1. Stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE (9:11): The rain has stopped, the tarp is being removed, and we should have baseball resuming here shortly!
UPDATE (9:47): TOP 8: The Ducks have erupted for four runs here in the eighth and now lead it 7-1! Fehlandt Lentini and Marc Krauss with RBIs!
UPDATE (10:26): FINAL: Ducks defeat the Blue Crabs, 7-1, on #OpeningDay! First win in the bag!
The first brick has been laid in the construction of the 2017 Long Island Ducks roster. On Monday, the team announced Cody Puckett as its first player signing for this year, kick-starting the exciting build up to Opening Night. With his return, the infielder will begin a fourth consecutive year with the Ducks. It is certainly not difficult to see that Puckett has become an important piece of the “core” that has shaped this team during its second decade on Long Island.
“I feel like our whole team has been there for a while, not just me,” said Puckett by telephone on Monday. “There is a core group of guys that are more of the leaders, and those guys take on the bigger roles. It’s just fun to go out there and be around everybody.”
Those who have been in the clubhouse and around the team over the past three seasons know that Puckett is more of a quiet leader. He is not the most vocal guy nor does he show a great deal of emotion on the field. Instead, the California native prefers to lift the team through his performance, and he has unquestionably been a model of consistency. Just look at the numbers from those three years:
2014: .298 AVG, 10 HR, 77 RBI, 64 R, 169 H, 17 2B, 138 G
2015: .275 AVG, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 67 R, 147 H, 23 2B, 135 G
2016 .272 AVG, 9 HR, 73 RBI, 62 R, 121 H, 20 2B, 120 G
Despite the success he has had on the diamond, Puckett also knows where he stands among his teammates. While he has helped the Ducks to a Liberty Division championship in 2016, a postseason berth in 2015 and 73 regular season victories in 2014, he has yet to take home the ultimate prize in the Atlantic League. The same cannot be said for others that he shares the clubhouse with, guys like Dan Lyons and John Brownell, for example.
“Those guys have been here and won championships,” Puckett noted. “I just kind of follow their lead, and there is a mutual respect between everybody.”
Even though none of his three seasons has ended on a winning note, Long Island has become home for Puckett. The fans at Bethpage Ballpark have grown fond of his style of play, combining an ability to get on base with power and superb defense to form an overall outstanding ballplayer. He has also been a regular presence in the lineup, playing an average of 131 per season with the Ducks. With the grind that goes through a 140-game schedule along with frequent roster changes, having a player that can be as durable as Puckett goes a long way for any team. Fortunately, that team is the Ducks.
“Long Island has been really good to me, the people there are great and the fans are awesome,” he affirmed. “I wouldn’t want to be with any other team in the Atlantic League.”
Puckett posted strong numbers overall for the Ducks in 2016 as a middle-of-the-lineup bat and primary third baseman. Although his season was limited to 120 games due to minor injuries at the end of May and end of August, his 73 RBI were second-most on the team behind Fehlandt Lentini (75) and sixth-most in the Atlantic League. He also launched nine home runs, equaling his mark from 2015, and eight of them came at Bethpage Ballpark. In the end though, Puckett had mixed reviews about his season.
“I was a little disappointed in the power numbers, but I was pretty good in the RBI department so that was more important,” he recalled. “I just want to get better at hitting with runners on because you can always improve in that. Situational hitting is always big, and games always come down to that.”
Despite wanting to improve, Puckett’s numbers in key situations stood out the most in 2016. With runners on base, he posted a .318 batting average and eight home runs. With runners in scoring position, the average skyrocketed to .371. In 11 at bats with the bases loaded, Puckett hit a staggering .455 with 15 runs batted in. If Puckett can boost those numbers, watch out Atlantic League.
As for the rest of the team, the Ducks found their way into the postseason thanks to clinching the First Half Liberty Division title. Long Island then pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in league history, becoming only the second team in league history to rally from a 2-0 series deficit, as they defeated the Somerset Patriots for the Liberty Division title. However, Puckett’s dream of winning his first Atlantic League championship was dashed when the Sugar Land Skeeters swept the Ducks to claim their first-ever title. Despite achieving his first appearance in the Championship Series with Long Island, the former eighth round draft pick was left unsatisfied.
“Getting there is always a good thing, but after losing, it always leaves a sour taste in your mouth,” Puckett said. “Even if it’s in the Championship Series, it’s never a good thing to end the season on a losing note. You just want to go back out there the next year and finish the job.”
While the team fell short of its final goal, Puckett was confident that the group was good enough to become champions. Faced with a great deal of adversity during the year, losing several key pitchers to outside organizations and other players to injury, Long Island still managed to be one of the final two teams standing. It was that result which made the infielder confident about returning to the Flock.
“We were pretty solid all around last year,” Puckett noted. “Losing our starters in the middle of the year to affiliated baseball and Taiwan kind of hurt us, but besides that, there were new guys who came in and stepped up.”
He went on to add, “I think we had that good group of guys to take it all last year. Things just didn’t work out in our favor at the end, but that’s why you play the games.”
Unlike many of his teammates who flew south to play winter ball in the Caribbean, Puckett’s offseason was a bit more tranquil. The majority of his time was spent in Las Vegas, which he now calls home after moving from Apple Valley, California. Cody’s mother, Kerry, received a new job offer there, and Cody’s father, Rock, made the move with her. He hopes to get a job as an usher at the new T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who will join the National Hockey League in the fall.
Also joining Cody and his parents in Las Vegas was Cody’s girlfriend, Alexandra, a native of Long Island. The couple is currently expecting a baby in the next couple of weeks, and that has allowed them both to spend quality time together while also feverishly preparing for the arrival of the newest Ducks fan.
“It’s exciting,” Puckett exclaimed. “We’ve been getting all of our stuff ready; I think we’re pretty much all set. I’m just waiting for her to give me the word to take her to the hospital.”
They have already decided upon a name, but they’re waiting until the baby comes before revealing it.
Once April hits and Puckett makes his way out East, baseball will surely take over much of his focus. The 2015 Atlantic League All-Star knows he will be returning to the team he wants to play for and a league that has treated him well ever since he arrived in 2014. In fact, it did not take Puckett long to know that this was where he wanted to be.
“After that first year, I thought it was the most fun I had playing baseball in a long time,” he reminisced. “You just go out there and play, and that was awesome for me.”
He later noted, “In the Atlantic League, you get to see a lot of ex-big leaguers and older veterans but you also get to see a lot of younger guys coming up. It’s a very diverse league, and the competition is second to none.”
As for expectations this year, his mission is simple: “I’m looking forward to bringing a championship back there in 2017.”
Our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016 is down to the final day. We have relived some of the best memories from this past season, including on-field success, attendance milestones and exciting promotional events. Did you happen to miss the first six moments on our list? No problem! Let’s recap them:
The time has now come to reveal our Top Moment of 2016! So many incredible games were played during the 2016 season, and over 350,000 fans helped make each and every night at Bethpage Ballpark a special occasion. It was very difficult to decide which of these wonderful days and nights was worthy of being dubbed #1 on our list. Ultimately, we decided that it had to be the night that we completed one of the greatest comebacks in Atlantic League history.
“The Comeback is Complete!” – September 25, 2016
When the Ducks began the 2016 season, many players and coaches claimed that the ending of the 2015 campaign left a bitter taste in their mouth. After posting an astounding 80-59 record during the regular season, leading many to believe they would eventually become champions, the Ducks fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division Championship Series. Despite holding a 2-1 series lead, their divisional foes rallied for a pair of shutout victories to claim the series en route to winning a league title. It was the team’s goal to get back to the playoffs, beat Somerset if they them faced again and bring the championship trophy back to Long Island.
As fate would have it, the Ducks won the first half of the 2016 season while the Patriots claimed the second half. That set up a first round playoff rematch between the two teams that had met in two of the past three postseasons, needing all five games to determine a winner. With the Ducks winning the series in 2013 to earn the league championship and the Patriots getting the victory in 2015 to win the division title, something would have to give in 2016.
The series did not start well for Long Island, as the Patriots took the first two games in their home ballpark. A walk-off home run in Game One and a dominant pitching performance in Game Two put the Ducks on the brink of elimination. Despite needing to win three consecutive games at home to keep their season alive, the Flock never pushed the panic button. Nick Struck and Jarret Leverett both stepped up on the mound, combining to allow just one run in 14 innings of work. Offensively, Lew Ford, Tyler Colvin and Anthony Vega each launched homers to help even the series at two games apiece. Sure enough, the Ducks and Patriots would need a decisive Game Five to determine the Liberty Division champion.
Both teams took the field on Sunday, September 25 full of excitement and anxiousness before a raucous crowd in Central Islip. They each turned to their Game One starter as well with the hopes of advancing to the Atlantic League Championship Series. John Brownell quickly retired the Patriots in order, and the Ducks responded by putting the Patriots in an early hole. A run-scoring wild pitch, RBI doubles by Lew Ford and Ruben Gotay and an RBI single by Tyler Colvin gave the Ducks an early 4-0 lead and sent the fans into a frenzy. One inning later, Vega scored on another wild pitch from Will Oliver to push the advantage to five.
That would be more than enough for Brownell, who retired the first 12 batters he faced and surrendered just one run in five and two-thirds innings of work. Patrick Crider, Zack Treece and Amalio Diaz kept the Patriots off the scoreboard for the next two and one-third innings to put the Flock three outs away from the division title. Todd Coffey came on to pitch the ninth and quickly struck out Bryan LaHair and Kyle Roller. Carlos Guzman kept the game alive with a double, bringing Eric Farris to the plate. Coffey worked the count to 1-1 before Farris swung away:
The Ducks had done it! With their 5-1 win in Game Five, the Ducks became just the second team ever in Atlantic League history to rally back from a 2-0 series deficit and win. The only other? Somerset in the 2001 Atlantic League Championship Series. After a euphoric celebration on the field, the Ducks marched up to the home clubhouse at Bethpage Ballpark to enjoy their second champagne celebration. While the team still knew they had more work to accomplish, the atmosphere was one of pure joy.
There were so many key contributors to the comeback being completed. From Kevin Baez making the right moves at the right time to key performances on the mound by the Ducks’ pitching staff to clutch hits from the offense, everyone had a big role in earning the Liberty Division championship. Several of the key playmakers spoke about how proud they were of each other and how much they wanted to savor what they had accomplished:
Thank you all for recapping the Top Moments of 2016 with us and for helping make this past year such a memorable one. We could not have accomplished all we did, both on and off the field, without the support of such passionate fans. From our family to yours, have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! We can’t wait to see you all in 2017!