CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Julio Manon smiled broadly and made his prediction for the elimination Game 5 between his Ducks and Southern Maryland in Tuesday’s Liberty Division Championship Series.
“We’re going to take this,” Manon said after picking up
the win in the Ducks 15-5 victory in Game 4 that tied the first-round series at 2-2. “There ain’t pressure on us. They got the pressure. They won two games in a row and thought it was over.”
Manon’s words were more tongue-in-cheek than a bravado-infused guarantee. But the right-hander did his part to help the Ducks stave off elimination for a second straight day. Manon allowed just five hits and four runs (three earned) in six innings at Citibank Park.
The Ducks will now send staff ace Troy Cate to face Southern Maryland’s John Halama in Game 5. Halama out-dueled
Cate in a 1-0 Blue Crabs’ Game 1 victory. After losing a pair of one-run games to open the postseason in Southern Maryland, the Ducks have won two straight at home and can clinch the series in front of its home fans with another victory.
“With the series tied, we obviously have home-field advantage,” manager Gary Carter said. “John Halama was tough against us in Game 1 and he’s been tough against us all year.
“All I can say is we have to keep battling and hopefully Troy Cate will be on like he was in Game 1 as well.”
The Ducks’ offense took pressure of Manon by exploding for five first-inning runs and posting a five-run fourth inning to stymie any chance of a Southern Maryland comeback attempt. Brooklyn native Johnny Hernandez keyed the offensive explosion, going 2-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored as the Ducks recorded 20 hits.
Blue Crabs’ starter Ryan Bicondoa allowed the first five Ducks to reach base and score. Following a walk and two singles, George Lombard lined a RBI single to open the scoring. Hernandez followed with a key two-run single to center that was even more devastating for the Blue Crabs when Jeremy Owens misplayed the ball, allowing Lombard to score all the way from first on the error. John Pachot then added the first of his two sacrifice flies to hand Manon a 5-0 lead after one inning.
“That was a big-time relief right there,” said Manon.
Former major leaguer Michael Tucker put the Blue Crabs back in the game with his one-out RBI single in the fourth inning. Tucker’s hit also put two runners on base for Cesar Nicolas, who drilled Manon’s pitch deep to left for a three-run home run that cut the Ducks’ edge to 5-4.
But the Ducks responded in the bottom of the inning by putting up another five-spot. The club sent 10 men to the plate in batting around for the second time in just four innings. Bicondoa (0-1) gave up three straight singles before Mike James entered in relief. James didn’t fare better, also allowing three straight base hits.
“If we kept a one-run lead, it would have been tough,” Manon said about the additional run support. “It would have been more pressure [on] the hitters and the pitchers.”
Hernandez took advantage
of another bases-loaded chance, nearly missing a grand slam when his booming shot hit off the centerfield wall for a two-run double. Estee Harris followed with a run-scoring double and Pachot’s sacrifice fly capped the scoring to extend the lead to 10-4.
“I would imagine it took the wind out of their sails,” Carter said. “All of a sudden they were thinking they were right back in it but then when we come back and score another five…”
Every Duck except Pachot, who tallied two RBIs, logged one base hit by the fourth inning. Pachot added an eighth-inning single while Alex Prieto contributed two hits off the bench.
“Whenever you can jump on top early,” Hernandez said, “that’s exactly what you want to do and we did it.”