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Wally Backman’s First Comments as Ducks Manager

Wally-Backman-Manager-Blog

The Long Island Ducks certainly made headlines this week throughout the Atlantic League, professional baseball and sports communities. Their first bit of news came on Tuesday when the Rockland Boulders announced the hiring of Kevin Baez as their manager for the 2019 season. The hire brings an end to an eight-year run as skipper of the Ducks for Baez, one that was highlighted by six Atlantic League Championship Series appearances, back-to-back league championships in 2012 and 2013 and the most wins by any manager in franchise history (600 total, including 571 in the regular season).

That announcement was followed up on Wednesday with the introduction of the sixth manager in Ducks history: Wally Backman. The 59-year-old will guide the Flock after spending one season managing in the Atlantic League with the New Britain Bees. Backman’s Bees were 33-30 in the first half of the season a year ago, finishing just two games behind Somerset in the Liberty Division. His club ended the season at 61-65 overall after he saw six players have their contracts purchased during the season, including five by Major League organizations, four of whom reported to Triple-A clubs.

Overall, Backman brings 20 seasons of managerial experience to the Ducks, including 11 with MLB organizations. He has amassed over 1,100 regular season victories and a .511 winning percentage as a manager, and he has won three league championships as well. Prior to his coaching career, the Oregon native enjoyed a 14-year career in the Major Leagues. Nine of those were spent with the New York Mets, where he helped the team win the 1986 World Series and drew the admiration of many local baseball fans in this area.

Members of the media had the chance to speak with Backman on Wednesday following the announcement of his hire. Here is a transcript from the conference call:


What made you want to join the Long Island Ducks?

“I think what made me want to join the franchise is the people that I have to work with. I think they’re good baseball people. They care about the same things I care about, and that’s winning and trying to put a good product on the field every day.”

How excited are you about coming here, and how quickly did all of this happen?

“It happened pretty quickly. I’m excited about it! I’m back in my old stomping grounds, and I always showed my interest in being in the New York area. With this opportunity becoming available, I thought it was a great opportunity to go back to where I really wanted to be, and that was in New York.”

What did you learn about the Atlantic League last year from being in New Britain?

“Well, I think one of the positives was just how good the baseball was. It was very good caliber baseball. I think I had 14 or 15 guys that had played in the big leagues. I liked the level of play and the way the league was run. I had done independent baseball before I ever went and did affiliated ball, and to come into the Atlantic League last year and see the way it was run and the people that were involved in the Atlantic League, I was excited about it.”

Why did you want to be back in New York?

“The knowledge of baseball from the people of New York. The playing days that I had in New York and the respect that I had for the people because the knowledge of the game was so much different in New York than it was in any of the other cities that I played in or even managed in. They keep you on your toes. They expect good things to happen, and they’re knowledgeable people about the game. That part of it excited me and just coming back to be around the New York media. I’ve always had a good rapport with those people. I know a lot of them are a lot older, like I am…but I’ve always enjoyed the media and had a good relationship with the media. I look forward to the upcoming season.”

Is getting to the big leagues still a goal for you, and how many obstacles have you faced to get there?

“I’ve faced some obstacles, there’s no question, but it’s definitely my goal still. I’ll say this, and I’ll say it to anybody else, that my focus this year is 100% on the Ducks. Yeah, I would like to get back to the big leagues at some point in time, but again, I just signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks, and they’re going to get 100% of Wally Backman.”

How much of a challenge do you think it will be to get to the big leagues?

“You know what, I’m not even really thinking about that at this point. I’m excited about where I’m going. Everything’s a challenge, but I’ve never been a quitter and I’m not going to quit at anything I do.  I would like to reiterate though that my focus is the Long Island Ducks and trying to win a championship there now.”

How much of a factor was it coming to a team that has the foundation and culture of success?

“Well, it’s huge. Knowing that you’re coming to an organization that really wants to win, is about winning and will do just about everything to try to help you accomplish that, I hope that I’m one of the ingredients that puts us over the top and helps us win a championship.”

What’s the biggest difference between managing at Triple-A and in the Atlantic League?

“Probably the biggest difference would be development. You’re trying to develop players in affiliated baseball. You’re still trying to develop, somewhat, in the Atlantic League, but it’s really more based on winning and trying to get guys back to where they can get an opportunity to go back to affiliated baseball or even to the big leagues.”

How nice will it be to reconnect with Bud Harrelson?

“Well, it would be huge. We did reconnect last year when I would come to town when I was with New Britain. Buddy and I have a long history together. I wish Buddy the best, and I hope he’s out there every day with us.”

How does it make you feel that your reception from New York fans always seems to be universally positive now more than three decades removed from that special 1986 championship team?

“Well it’s too long ago, that’s for sure. I’m getting too old now. Like I said, I enjoyed my time in New York. I always did, and I always wanted to come back to New York. To get this opportunity, I’m very grateful for it and hopefully good things come out of it.”

In the analytics-driven world that baseball has become, how much can analytics play a part in managing at this level?

“I’ve been using analytics since they’ve been available. I use the things that I believe help me, things like ground ball percentages, fly ball percentages and the way guys pitch in certain situations. All the information that I’m able to get, I try to go through all of that and use it to the best of my ability to help the team win.”

Do your instincts play a part in making managerial decisions as well? Do you balance the two?

“I think you’ve got to use both. You’ve got to use your eyes and use the things that are on paper too. These are human beings that are playing against you, and the analytics make a big part of that. It helps you tremendously on your defense, and it also helps your players. If you can give them certain parts of that to where they can analyze it themselves, it also helps make them a better player.”

How would you describe yourself in terms of managerial style?

“I’m an aggressive manager but under control. I use the information that’s given to me. I like to be aggressive on the bases. I like to see our guys go first to third. Those are things that I really demand of the players, just not to go through the motions. But I’m a player’s manager as well. I played for some of the best managers in the game, starting with Joe Torre as my first manager in New York to Jim Leyland, Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella. I could go on with other guys that I played for in the big leagues, but you try to take a piece from each one of them. The way that Jim Leyland communicated with his players, I thought, was one of the best that I had ever seen. Davey was a smart manager, and we had a great team in ’86. You try to take pieces from a little bit of all those guys and try to use it as an asset for yourself and go from there. I’m still Wally Backman, but I’ve taken a piece of a lot of those guys and tried to use it to the best of my ability in the way that I manage a game.”

Is it in some ways more fun at the minor league level now because it seems to be more of an old-style, fundamental type of baseball?

“I think it’s a big part in winning. Fundamentally, you have to be able to bunt and move runners over. Everybody loves the home runs, but you can win baseball games a lot of other ways than just the home runs. The strikeouts are a concern with me. A lot of people say, ‘an out is an out,’ but a strikeout, to me, can never be a productive out.”

How much time have you spent on Long Island previously, especially here in Suffolk County?

“Well, I lived in Dix Hills. I built a house in Dix Hills in the 80’s when I was playing in New York, so I’m pretty familiar with the Island.”

What have you learned in 20 years as a manager? How are you different from when you were managing with the White Sox organization to now?

“You know, I’m not a whole lot different. I respect the game, and I expect the players to respect the game. The thing that I probably have changed in those 20 years is the analytics. I’ve tried to use the analytics as far back as I can remember, whatever it might have been. Everything’s available to you today, and I think if you go through certain parts of the analytics, it can really help you win games.”

Is the rotation of players the most difficult part of independent baseball, with guys often going back to affiliated ball?

“Well, I think that’s a part of the Atlantic League. I think that’s why the Atlantic League is, without a doubt, the number one independent league there is in baseball. I don’t know exactly how well we’re affiliated with Major League Baseball. I know we follow all the guidelines and all the rules, but I think it’s important to show those players that we care about the players and are trying to get them back to affiliated ball. Whether it’s the minor leagues or overseas or back to the Major Leagues, we’re there for them. They can show what they can do on the field, and we get scouted very heavily.  There are opportunities for those players, and we’re just a piece of it. We’re giving those players an opportunity to show what they can do on the field and possibly give them another opportunity to get back to the big leagues or just get to the big leagues.”

What did your year managing in Brooklyn teach you about managing in New York that you can bring to Long Island?

“I don’t know that it really taught me anything. I know I played the game a long time, but I think the first and utmost important thing that you do with a player is you earn the player’s respect. Once you can earn the player’s respect and the trust of the player, then it’s like a good marriage. Things go better, and you can get more out of a player. For me, I think respecting the players is one of the most important things for a manager because once you earn a player’s respect, you’re going to get everything they’ve got.”

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Humble Brownell Keeps Adding to Trophy Case

Brownell-Caribbean-Championships

John Brownell has just about done it all in a Ducks uniform. He has broken the franchise’s all-time records for wins, strikeouts, innings pitched and games started. He has earned Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year honors. He was named the Championship Series’ Most Valuable Player in 2013 after helping the Flock win back-to-back titles. Yet despite all the accolades that have come his way, the right-handed starter refuses to think about his place as the greatest pitcher in team history.

“I don’t really look at the personal achievements,” he stated via telephone on Tuesday. “My goal is just to try and get better every year and try to do the best I can every day I get the ball for the team. I’m just trying to win championships. The personal stuff is great, but I don’t really think about that at all. What’s happened is behind me, and I just keep pressing forward to the next day and the next season.”

The 33-year-old will begin his sixth season at his “home away from home” in 2017. Since arriving in September of 2011, Brownell has fallen in love with Long Island and Ducks fans have reciprocated. The environment has enabled him to develop a comfort zone and achieve success, and Long Islanders have fed off of his consistency on the mound and ability to step up when it matters the most. It has become a match made in heaven.

“It’s like a second home to me with the way the organization and fans have treated me over the years,” Brownell noted. “The fans are there to support, day in and day out, and the team takes care of the players. It just seems like they are very invested in the team. I couldn’t be happier to be back with the Ducks. I just love it there and am thankful for the opportunity.”

Brownell-Caguas-1

If Long Island has become Brownell’s second home, Criollos de Caguas in Puerto Rico would be home number three for the Omaha, Nebraska resident. He has played for the team during the winter in three of the past four years, including this offseason, and has continued to find success down there. In 24 starts with Caguas, the righty has compiled an 8-8 record with a 2.77 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 120 and one-third innings of work. While nothing is ever guaranteed for Brownell following the Atlantic League season, he feels as though he has found somewhat of a nook in Puerto Rico.

“It’s similar as far as how the organization treats the players,” he explained. “Alex Cora has been the general manager every year that I’ve been there, and he makes you feel comfortable and welcome the same way that Mike Pfaff and everybody with the Ducks do. I love it there because they make it feel like you’re at home and help take care of you if you’re in need of something, not just on the field but away from it as well.”

After putting together another strong season with the Ducks in 2016, Brownell headed south for the winter looking for more of the same with Criollos de Caguas. He started seven games for them during the regular season and posted a miniscule 2.12 ERA. Despite his success, the team struggled to get the same results and finished the year at 19-21, third among the league’s five teams and nine games behind leaders Cangrejeros de Santurce.

When the playoffs began, it appeared as though the trend would continue. Caguas fell behind two games to none against Indios de Mayaguez, who had finished the year seven games better than them at 26-14. Staring at a potential 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, Caguas turned to a proven postseason performer in Brownell to start a critical Game Three.

“In a seven-game series, when you’re down 2-0, Game Three is essentially a must-win,” Brownell acknowledged. “If you go down 3-0, you’re probably not coming back to win that series. Just being in situations like that throughout my career kind of gives you confidence to recall on those times. You can say, ‘Alright, you’ve been here before. It’s nothing different. Just go out there and do your job like every other day. Give the team a chance to win the game and hopefully hand the ball to the bullpen with a lead.’”

Sure enough, he took the mound and tossed five and two-thirds innings of two-run ball and left the game with his team in front 5-2. The bullpen would preserve the lead from there, giving Caguas a 5-4 win that would turn their postseason around. The team would go on to win each of the next three games, all in one-run fashion, to earn a place in the finals.

Brownell-Caguas-2

Caguas would face Santurce to determine the Puerto Rican champion, and sure enough, the series would feature a pair of former teammates battling to win the title. Across the diamond from Brownell was Darin Downs, Long Island’s number two starter to begin the 2015 playoffs and 2016 season behind the right-hander. It gave the two a chance to fiercely compete against one another on the field but also a chance to reconnect and cheer each other on as friends.

“Darin and I got together a couple of times during that series and got some coffee in the morning,” Brownell reminisced. “There was definitely a little trash talk there. We were just happy for each other though that we were able to be a part of that and compete for a championship, even though we were on opposite teams. Darin’s a good friend. Of course I wanted my team to win, but if his team had won, I would have been happy for him.”

The series began in see-saw fashion, but Downs seemed to have the upper hand early on. The southpaw started Game Two, a Santurce victory, despite him lasting just three and two-thirds innings. Brownell turned in a quality start in Game Four with six and one-third innings of three-run ball, but Santurce won again. Ultimately, Brownell and Caguas found themselves trailing three games to two in the best-of-nine series and on the brink of elimination. However, they stormed back with a 12-1 victory in Game Five, handing Downs the loss in a game that would change the series for good. Brownell started Game Six and pitched three innings of one-run ball before the bullpen tossed six scoreless frames to earn a 4-1 win and the edge in the series. Three days later, Caguas won the championship in a 12-inning thriller.

“I feel like it was similar to the 2013 Ducks championship because we were an underdog going into those playoffs,” Brownell claimed. “I don’t think many teams in the league that year thought we were going to win it. [This year,] we were one of the lower seeds getting into the playoffs and everybody was thinking Santurce or Mayaguez was going to win it. We were down 2-0 against Mayaguez and came back to win that series in six games, which I think shocked the league down there. Santurce had, by far, the best record during the regular season. We were down in that series and came back to win the final three games to take that series. I think that shocked the league again.”

Brownell-Caribbean

Caguas would face adversity yet again when they took part in the Caribbean Series, hosted by Mexico. Over the first three days of the tournament, Puerto Rico lost round robin games to Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba. Without a victory over the Dominican Republic on the tournament’s fourth day, their season would be over. To win the entire series, Puerto Rico would need to win three straight games, much like the Ducks had to do against Somerset in the 2016 Liberty Division Championship Series. Brownell was handed the ball in a must-win game, and he would use this past year’s experience as fuel.

“It definitely helped as far as my confidence and taking the mound in those situations,” he affirmed. “I had a more recent experience to call upon to give me confidence going into those games. You’ve just got to focus a little bit more and press in a little bit harder to get the job done.”

Brownell was spotted an early 3-0 lead, and he began the night with four scoreless innings on the mound. He ran into trouble in the fifth though, surrendering a two-out, two-run single to close the gap to one. However, Puerto Rico’s bullpen avoided further trouble and the offense erupted for seven runs over the final four innings to clinch a spot in the semifinals. They would go on to avenge their earlier loss in the tournament with a 9-6 triumph over Venezuela to reach the Caribbean championship. Finally, Puerto Rico blanked the host country, 1-0, in a 10-inning pitcher’s duel to claim the title.

While Brownell certainly was a big factor in helping Caguas become not only the best in Puerto Rico but the best in all of the Caribbean, he was not alone. The team’s chemistry was built on having many native Puerto Ricans playing together as well as several Ducks and Atlantic League alumni playing together. Among Brownell’s teammates were former Ducks Ruben Gotay, Randy Ruiz, Ricardo Gomez and Andrew Barbosa. In addition, the veteran was joined on the roster by former rivals in David Vidal, Will Oliver and Jose De La Torre of the Somerset Patriots. Having so many familiar faces in the clubhouse was a major key to success for both Brownell and the team as a whole.

“It’s great whenever you go to a new setting for the season and you have guys that you played with,” he stated. “It’s good to see guys from the past, catch up with them and get back on the field competing with those guys. It’s also a lot of fun to play with guys that you competed against during the summer. It’s good to see how they go about their business and play the game because you don’t really see the whole dynamic of their personality and competitive drive when you’re on the opposite team.”

He went on to say, “It definitely helps when there are guys that know each other. It builds that chemistry in the clubhouse and there’s comfort to it.”

Brownell-Road

Now that the winter season is over, Brownell is focusing on what he believes is one of the most important aspects of his daily life: rest. He has logged a lot of miles over the past four seasons especially between full Atlantic League seasons and winter ball down south. Despite the workload, he has assured all who ask that fatigue has never been an issue. The reason for that has been his reliance on giving his body as much of a break as possible when not at the ballpark.

“Rest is very important,” Brownell asserted. “I’m a big believer in rest, getting to bed as soon as you can and not overworking yourself both physically and mentally. When you leave the field, you’ve got to leave whatever happened at the field that day behind and just give your mind a mental break.”

He added, “I’ve felt good. You have a little bit of time in between the seasons and then after the winter season before you report for the summer. I still get some throwing in, but I don’t overwork myself because you’re going to get plenty of work in while you’re in-season.”

With the 2017 season now just over a month away, Brownell is eager to head back to Long Island and begin a quest to add yet another trophy to his resume. With several key returners already signed, he knows many other teammates will share in his desire to achieve what they narrowly missed out on a year ago.

“Having a good core of guys returning from last year’s team,” he said, “I’m sure we all feel like we have a little unfinished business as far as bringing that championship back to Long Island.”

How he is defined on the baseball diamond is irrelevant to Brownell. The only thing that matters to him: winning the last game of the season.

Game 124: Ducks vs. Blue Crabs

Celebration

The Ducks capped off their three-game series with the Bridgeport Bluefish in dramatic fashion, using a walk-off hit in the ninth inning to take the three-game series 2-1. Fehlandt Lentini, who was 0-4 in the ballgame prior to his final at-bat, came up with the winning hit on a RBI single through the hole into left field, giving the Flock a 3-2 win. The victory was pivotal for Long Island’s positioning in the Liberty Division, as the Bluefish now sit two games back of Somerset for first place, while the Ducks are one game behind the Pats. Southern Maryland now visits Bethpage Ballpark for a four-game set.

John Brownell struggled through the first two innings against Bridgeport’s offense, allowing one run in both the first and second frame. Former Duck C.J. Retherford’s RBI groundout in the first put Bridgeport up 1-0. One inning later, Bryan Sabatella plated a run on a RBI single to right field to give the ‘Fish all of their offense in the contest. After the second inning, Brownell was fantastic. His pitches came down in the zone and were much more effective. Offensively, the Ducks scored their first run off Bridgeport starter Matt Iannazzo when Sean Burroughs dropped a RBI single into left field. Burroughs had yet another great game at the plate and made some important plays at first base as well. In the sixth, Mike Blanke’s RBI single would score Dan Lyons to tie the ballgame at two.

Brownell persevered and maintained his consistency, reaching the ninth inning. After allowing a one-out single to Wilson Batista, Jobduan Morales grounded into a double play to help Brownell work out of the frame. Five of the nine innings Brownell threw were 1-2-3 frames. In the bottom of the ninth, the Ducks quickly got to Bluefish reliever Jimmy Patterson. With one out, Cody Puckett came through with a double down the left field line to put the winning run in scoring position. Kevin Baez then called on Randy Ruiz to pinch hit for Anthony Vega. Ricky VanAsselberg responded by intentionally walking Ruiz to put him on first base and create a double play situation at second and third base. The Ducks then replaced Ruiz at first with pinch runner Carlos Hughes. Elmer Reyes, who hit his first homer as a Duck the night before, was the batter with a chance to win the game. After a seven-pitch battle with Patterson that featured five foul balls, Reyes lofted a bloop single into shallow right field to load the bases. Lentini was next, 0-4 to that point in the contest. But, this time, Lentini pulled the first pitch from Patterson past shortstop Matt Wessinger into left field to score Cody Puckett as the winning run.

Burroughs and Blanke both picked up two hits and one RBI in the victory. Brownell tossed his second complete game of the season for the win, improving to 11-4. Those 11 wins are the most in the Atlantic League. The righty allowed two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out seven. Brownell’s ERA is now 3.23 on the year. Every starter except Nelfi Zapata had at least one hit.

CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from the dramatic series finale
CLICK HERE to watch postgame interviews with Kevin Baez, John Brownell, and Fehlandt Lentini
CLICK HERE to view Thursday’s box score

As the push for first place continues, the Ducks will send Nick Struck to the mound in the series opener with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Struck has made 43 relief appearances for Long Island this year, with his first start coming tonight against the Crabs. In those appearances, the righty is 5-3 with a 2.42 ERA. In 41 innings, the Oregon native has allowed 11 runs on 32 hits while walking 19 and striking out 45. Struck is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five relief appearances against Southern Maryland in 2015. He has not allowed a run on three hits with one walk and four strikeouts in five frames.

The Blue Crabs, who are currently last in the Freedom Division but going to the postseason for their title in the first half, will hand the ball to Tim Sexton. Sexton has primarily been a relief pitcher as well, making two starts in 17 overall appearances this season. Through 26 and two-thirds innings, the righty has surrendered 11 runs (nine earned) on 31 hits. He has walked six and struck out 24. Interestingly, Sexton will make his third start of the year tonight and third start against the Ducks. Sexton faced the Flock in his last start on August 28, picking up the win in a 5-2 Blue Crabs victory. In six frames, the Baltimore native gave up just one run (unearned) on five hits while walking five and striking out seven. He is 1-0 against the Ducks in 2015.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Blue Crabs: Tonight marks the 154th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Blue Crabs. Southern Maryland currently leads the series 79-74, but the Ducks have a 43-38 advantage at Bethpage Ballpark. Tonight is also the 17th of 20 scheduled games between the two teams in 2015. The Ducks lead the series 12 to four and have won all eight games at home. They have outscored Southern Maryland 53-37 at Bethpage Ballpark this season.

Home Cooking: The Ducks enter tonight’s game with an Atlantic League-leading 44-19 record at home in 2015. Their .698 winning percentage is 67 percentage points better than any other team (Somerset, .631, 41-24). As a whole, the Ducks have a .304 batting average and a 3.17 ERA at Bethpage Ballpark this season. Comparatively, they are batting .261 with a 3.31 ERA on the road this year.

Cardiac Quacks: Thursday was Long Island’s ninth waddle-off victory of the season and first against the Bluefish. In addition, it was the team’s first walk-off win since August 14 against Southern Maryland. The Ducks have now totaled 35 come-from-behind victories this season.

What Can Brown-ell Do For You?: John Brownell earned his second complete game of the year on Thursday and has now tossed both of the Ducks’ complete games in 2015. His first came on July 15 when he pitched a complete game shutout at Lancaster. The righty led the Atlantic League with five complete games in 2014 and set a team record with seven in 2013. He is currently the league leader in wins (11), innings pitched (156) and strikeouts (126). In addition, his strikeout of C.J. Retherford in the eighth marked the 1,000th of his career.

I Can See Cleary Now: Delta Cleary, Jr. connected for a double on Thursday and has now hit safely in 18 consecutive games. That surpasses Dan Lyons’ 17-game hit streak from August 8-24 as the longest by a Duck this year. During the streak, the outfielder is batting .423 (33-for-78) with four doubles, one triple, six RBI and 14 runs scored. He also stole his team-leading 31st base of the season when he swiped second in the fourth inning.

Multi-Hit Madness: Cody Puckett collected two more hits on Thursday and now leads the team with 28 two-hit games this year. In addition, he has 36 multi-hit contests. Sean Burroughs finished with two hits and has now collected three straight multi-hit games. The former big leaguer now has eight two-hit games and 14 multi-hit contests in 23 games with the Flock.

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

Ducks

#22 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#25 Sean Burroughs – 1B
#39 Nelfi Zapata – C
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#27 Anthony Vega – LF
#11 Elmer Reyes – 2B

#24 Nick Struck

Blue Crabs

#1 Fred Lewis – DH
#24 Casey Stevenson – 2B
#29 Zach Wilson – 1B
#14 Bryant Nelson – 3B
#6 Jamar Walton – LF
#4 Casey Frawley – SS
#18 Keith Castillo – C
#9 Tyler Wagner – RF
#3 Antone DeJesus – CF

#17 Tim Sexton – RHP

Check back here for updates all game long as the Ducks and Blue Crabs kick off their four-game series from the Duck Pond! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:39): TOP 1: We are underway from Bethpage Ballpark, game one with the Blue Crabs!

UPDATE (7:05): BOT 2: Randy Ruiz with a solo shot to left! Ducks lead 1-0!

UPDATE (7:52): TOP 6: Patrick Crider ready for another inning of relief! Ducks still lead 1-0!

UPDATE (8:01): TOP 6: A run-scoring wild pitch ties the ballgame 1-1.

UPDATE (8:14): BOT 6: Dan Lyons with a RBI fielder’s choice puts the Ducks ahead 2-1!

UPDATE (8:25): TOP 7: Antone DeJesus hits a two-run homer to right to give the Crabs a 3-2 lead.

UPDATE (8:55): BOT 8: Delta Cleary, Jr.! His RBI single to center ties the ballgame 3-3! Clutch!

UPDATE (9:16): TOP 10: We are going to extras, tied 3-3!

UPDATE (9:28): TOP 10: Infield single for Jamar Walton scores a run and gives the Blue Crabs a 4-3 lead.

UPDATE (9:43): BOT 10: The Ducks fight back and tie the game 4-4! Dan Lyons with another RBI fielder’s choice, beating out the throw at first!

UPDATE (10:40): MID 13: Chris McCoy with two scoreless innings of relief, keeping this a 4-4 contest! Ducks coming up to bat looking to waddle off!

UPDATE (11:24): TOP 16: Grant Zawadzki breaks the tie with a RBI single into center. 5-4 Blue Crabs.

UPDATE (11:33): FINAL: Ducks drop a heartbreaker in 16 innings, 5-4.

Game 89: Ducks vs. Patriots

Lentini

Wednesday brought another tough night for the Ducks, as they dropped their series opener to the Somerset Patriots in a 3-2 final. Long Island’s offense struggled yet again, as the team went scoreless until the eighth inning. The Flock currently sit six games out of first place in the second half Liberty Division standings. The Patriots are one half game back of the first-place Bridgeport Bluefish.

Somerset put up their first runs in the third frame against Ducks starter Bruce Kern. Kern, who had allowed just two home runs all season through 47 innings prior to the contest, gave up a pair of solo shots in the third to Jonny Tucker and Aharon Eggleston. Somerset hurler Sean Bierman stifled the Ducks offense through seven strong innings of work. He did not allow a run on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. Despite the two homers, Kern finished with a quality outing. The righty allowed two runs on five hits without walking a batter and striking out eight in six innings. However, the Pats struck for another run in the seventh when Michael Burgess hit a solo homer of his own off of Ducks reliever Patrick Crider to make it 3-0 Somerset. Long Island finally got on the board in the eighth with a pair of runs. After a Dan Lyons triple scored Jon Griffin, Fehlandt Lentini, in his return to the Ducks, plated Lyons on a RBI infield single. Despite cutting the lead to one run, the Flock could not respond and tie the game in the ninth, suffering their 11th loss of the second half.

Lentini and Delta Cleary, Jr. each finished with a pair of hits for the Ducks. The only other starters to tally a hit were Lyons and Cody Puckett, for a total of six as a team. Long Island is hitting .229 as a team in their last 10 games, having scored 26 runs across that span. Kern suffered the tough loss to fall to 5-2 on the season. Bierman improved to 10-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.79. Jon Hunton also tied Ducks closer Ryan Kussmaul for the league lead in saves with 24.

CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from the series opener

CLICK HERE to watch postgame interviews with Kevin Baez and Dan Lyons

CLICK HERE to view Tuesday’s box score

The Ducks will try to snap their four-game skid on Wednesday night by sending Ian Marshall to the hill. Marshall enters game two of three at 4-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 16 starts. In 95 innings of work, the righty has allowed 43 runs (37 earned) on 86 hits while walking 35 and striking out 59. In his last start, Marshall won for the first time in eight outings as the Ducks defeated the York Revolution 5-2 at Bethpage Ballpark. The 2015 All-Star allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out five Revs.

Somerset looks to guarantee a win of the series with Lucas Irvine getting the ball in the middle contest. Irvine is currently 5-5 with a 2.57 ERA through 16 starts as well. The right-hander has surrendered 29 runs (26 earned) on 90 hits in 91 innings of work in 2015. Irvine was also named a 2015 All-Star, and has pitched well of late. In his last four starts, the 26-year-old has tossed 24 and one-third innings and allowed eight runs on 29 hits with nine walks and 25 strikeouts.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Patriots: Tonight marks the 300th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Patriots. Somerset leads the series 151-148, but Long Island has a 79-74 advantage at Bethpage Ballpark. Tonight also marks the 15th of 20 scheduled games between the two in 2015. The series is currently tied at seven, and 12 of the first 14 meetings have been decided by three runs or less. Both teams are scheduled to play 12 games against each other this month.

Home Cooking: Despite Tuesday’s loss, the Ducks still sport a home record of 31-12 this season. Their .721 home winning percentage is currently the best in the Atlantic League. Somerset ranks second at .681 (32-15). As a team, the Ducks have a .299 batting average and 3.15 ERA at home. Comparatively, they have a .261 batting average and a 3.29 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark.

Strikeout Artist: Bruce Kern tied a season high by striking out eight batters in Tuesdays’ game. He also struck out eight in his last start, a 9-4 win over the Patriots on July 5 at Bethpage Ballpark. In four starts with the Flock, the Long Island native has compiled a 2.70 ERA, yielding six earned runs in 20 innings. In that span, he has surrendered just 15 hits and two walks while striking out 18.

Three’s Company: Dan Lyons picked up a triple for the second straight game, doing so again in the eighth inning on Tuesday. He also tripled in the eighth on Sunday at Bridgeport. Lyons is now tied with Reegie Corona for the team-lead and is tied for third in the Atlantic League in triples with five. Last year, the shortstop led the Flock and was tied for fifth in the league with seven three-baggers.

Oh, What a Relief He Is: J.C. Romero tossed another scoreless inning of relief in the eighth inning on Tuesday. He has now made seven consecutive scoreless appearances out of the bullpen. In that span, he has given up three hits and six walks while striking out four. The former big leaguer has allowed only two runs in 10 and two-thirds innings thus far with the Ducks (1.69 ERA).

Like He Never Left: In his first game back with the Ducks this season, Fehlandt Lentini collected two hits and a run batted in. Last year, the California native led the Ducks with 37 two-hit games and finished the season with 49 multi-hit games overall. Lentini totaled 63 runs batted in as well, which ranked fourth on the Flock. In 2014, the outfielder ranked first in the Atlantic League in at bats (593) and stolen base percentage (1.000), second in hits (172) and stolen bases (46), third in runs (96) and games played (137) and fourth in doubles (36).

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. Chris Buckley 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
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#44 Bryan Sabatella – LF
#33 Jon Griffin – 1B
#9 Mike Blanke – C
#11 Blake Davis – 2B

#21 Ian Marshall – RHP

Patriots

#5 Ollie Linton – CF
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#8 David Vidal – 1B
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#20 Greg Hopkins – 3B
#9 Mat Gamel – DH
#13 Robert Andino – SS
#3 Nate Spears – 2B
#4 James Skelton – C

#16 Lucas Irvine – RHP

Keep it here for updates all game long from Bethpage Ballpark as the Ducks and Patriots continue their three-game set! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:35): TOP 1: Ian Marshall fires a first-pitch strike and we are underway from Bethpage Ballpark! Game two of three with the Pats!

UPDATE (6:41): TOP 1: A RBI double from Michael Burgess puts Somerset up 1-0.

UPDATE (7:13): TOP 3: Aharon Eggleston’s RBI double makes it 2-0 Pats.

UPDATE (8:20): BOT 6: Blake Davis with a two-run double! Tie ballgame, 2-2!

UPDATE (8:45): BOT 7: Randy Ruiz! His go-ahead solo homer to deep left-center makes it 3-2 Ducks!

UPDATE (9:14): BOT 8: Ducks add an insurance run on a wild pitch! 4-2 Long Island, runner on second with no one out!

UPDATE (9:30): FINAL: Ducks win the middle game 4-2! Series finale tomorrow night!

Game 88: Ducks vs. Patriots

Griffin
The Ducks were swept for just the second time all season this past weekend, with both sweeps coming at the hands of the Bridgeport Bluefish at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. It was a difficult three-game set for the Flock, capped off by a walkoff Bridgeport win on Sunday evening. The Ducks managed six runs in the series, including one in the finale, a 2-1 loss. Long Island returns home to Bethpage Ballpark (where they are 31-11) to open another three-game set, this time against the Somerset Patriots.

The Ducks allowed a run to the Bluefish in the first inning for the third straight game. In the finale, it was a Josh Prince solo homer to left-center field off of Ducks starter Bobby Blevins that put the home team on top 1-0. Both offenses then went silent until the sixth when Long Island scratched out their lone run. Prentice Redman led off the frame with a double. Bluefish starter Kameron Loe then retired two batters before Delta Cleary, Jr. singled up the middle to tie the game. Despite the leadoff dinger, Blevins settled in nicely in the following innings. He made it to the sixth before being pulled with two outs. J.C. Romero secured the final out to end the inning. Donnie Veal and Amalio Diaz held Bridgeport scoreless in the seventh and eighth. Loe tossed a scoreless seventh before Scott Shuman and Steven Ames entered for the eighth and ninth. In the bottom of the last inning, Bridgeport needed just four batters to win the game against Ducks reliever Nick Struck. Struck retired the first batter he faced. Matt Wessinger then doubled and Brandon Jones was intentionally walked to put runners at first and second. Luis Rodriguez, who had grounded into a double play and struck out looking twice, stepped to the plate and delivered the walkoff hit on a bouncing ball through the left side of the infield.

Struck fell to 3-3 with the loss. Ames earned the win to move to 1-0, not allowing a hit in the ninth. Both starters took a no decision, with Blevins allowing one run on six hits in five and two-thirds innings. Loe had the same line, through seven innings. Cleary, Jr. finished with a pair of hits for the Ducks, who compiled seven as a team.

CLICK HERE to view Sunday’s box score

The Ducks will try and get back on track in their series opener against the Somerset Patriots. Bruce Kern will take the mound and make his fourth start of the year. The Long Island native is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA. Kern has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) in 47 innings on 32 hits while walking 13 and striking out 45. The righty’s last start came against the Pats on July 5. In a 9-4 Ducks win, Kern was the victor, allowing four runs on six hits in six innings with eight strikeouts. In his last 10 and one-third innings, he has not allowed a run with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Somerset, currently 1.5 games back of Bridgeport in the second half Liberty Division standings, counters with Sean Bierman. Bierman is 9-2 with a 1.90 ERA through 16 starts on the season. The southpaw has let up 30 runs (23 earned) on 103 hits in 108 and two-thirds innings of work. He has walked 15 and struck out 53. A contact pitcher, Bierman last pitched on July 23 in Camden as Somerset defeated the Riversharks 8-2. Bierman picked up his ninth win, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings. Batters are currently hitting .254 against him.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Patriots: Tonight marks the 299th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Patriots. Somerset leads the series 150-148, but Long Island has a 79-73 advantage at Bethpage Ballpark. Tonight also marks the 14th of 20 scheduled games between the two in 2015. The Ducks lead the series seven games to six, and 11 of the first 13 meetings have been decided by three runs or less. Both teams are scheduled to play 12 games against each other this month.

Home Cooking: The Ducks currently sport a home record of 31-11 this season. Their .738 home winning percentage is currently the best in the Atlantic League. Somerset ranks second at .681 (32-15). As a team, the Ducks have a .301 batting average and 3.15 ERA at home. Comparatively, they have a .261 batting average and a 3.29 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark.

Sabatella’s Streaking: Bryan Sabatella collected a single on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. It’s the second time this season that the Long Islander has earned hits in eight or more consecutive games. He previously hit safely in eight straight games from June 21-29 and in 13 straight from June 2-17.

Three’s Company: Dan Lyons collected his fourth triple of the year in the eighth inning on Sunday. He is second on the team in three-baggers this year, trailing Reegie Corona by one. As a team, the Ducks have compiled 16 triples in 2015, which ranks fourth in the Atlantic League.

Oh, What a Relief He Is: Amalio Diaz worked another scoreless eighth inning on Sunday. The right-hander has now gone five straight games without allowing a run, and he has given up just two runs over his last 22 appearances. In that span, the 28-year-old has posted a 0.75 ERA and has yielded just 12 hits and one walk over 24 innings while striking out 29 batters.

I’ll Have the Veal: Donnie Veal struck out the side for a second straight outing on Sunday. He also struck out the side in Friday’s game at Bridgeport. Since joining the Flock, the former big leaguer has collected nine strikeouts in just six innings of work. In addition, he has given up just one run on four hits and a walk.

Starter Success: Bruce Kern will make his fourth start of 2015 tonight. In his first three, the Yaphank resident is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA, allowing four earned runs in 14 innings. He has given up just 10 hits and two walks as well with 10 strikeouts. Kern earned the win in his last start (July 5), which was also against Somerset.

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. Chris Buckley 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
#44 Bryan Sabatella – DH
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#9 Mike Blanke – C
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#33 Jon Griffin – 1B
#40 Steve McQuail – LF
#11 Blake Davis – 2B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS

#30 Bruce Kern – RHP

Patriots

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

#32 Sean Bierman – LHP

Check back here for updates all game long from Bethpage Ballpark as the Ducks and Patriots open their three-game set! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:38): TOP 1: Bruce Kern kicks and fires and we are underway from the Duck Pond! Series opener against the Patriots!

UPDATE (7:07): TOP 3: Pats go up 1-0 on a solo homer from Johnny Tucker.

UPDATE (7:10): TOP 3: Aharon Eggleston’s solo shot makes it 2-0 Somerset.

UPDATE (8:03): TOP 7: Patrick Crider in to replace Bruce Kern as Ducks still trail 2-0.

UPDATE (8:07): TOP 7: Michael Burgess with a solo homer to right. 3-0 Patriots.

UPDATE (8:40): BOT 8: Dan Lyons with a RBI triple in the gap! Ducks get on the board, 3-1 Pats.

UPDATE (8:43): BOT 8: Welcome back Fehlandt Lentini! His RBI infield single makes it 3-2!

UPDATE (8:59): MID 9: Ducks still trail 3-2. One more shot for the Flock! Cleary, Jr., Blanke, and Puckett due up!

UPDATE (9:05): FINAL: Ducks drop their series opener 3-2.

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