If there is ever a time to get hot, head to Florida for the winter if you live in New York.
Or in this case though, it’s the Long Island Ducks who are playing their best ball of the second half and it comes just as the playoffs begin. It’s off to Somerset, New Jersey for the Ducks as they look to take down the division leading Patriots.
“We’re starting 0-0 in the playoffs,” said Ducks captain Lew Ford. “We have all our players back for the most part right now, as we were missing some key guys in the second half which probably showed with our record. We finished the season well and hopefully we can take that momentum into the playoffs.”
Ford is right. Long Island, who won the first half, finished the second half six games under .500 and showed no life nearly game after game. It was only until the final few games of the season that the club finally won a series after not doing so since the first week of August. With the club healthy now, and closing out the season with a 3-1 series victory over the York Revolution who are one of the best teams in the league, the flock is not looking back.
“It was a tough half for us as a team and for a lot of the individuals as well,” said shortstop Dan Lyons. “I feel like this last road trip we were really hoping to kind of fine tune some things, and I feel like we’re coming together at the right time right now.”
After losing most of the teams pitching staff to affiliated ball and to the Chinese and Japanese leagues, skipper Kevin Baez had his hands full trying to develop a successful hurlers. While the pitching had been a major issue for the club in the second half, there was enough hitting for most any other club to put together a victory. When the hitting was on, the pitching was off, and when the pitching was on, the hitting was off. This does not appear to be the problem going into the playoffs as the pitching has been the teams strong suit of late.
As the Ducks prepare for the post season, they know what lies ahead in the Somerset Patriots. A playoff rivalry has been instilled between these two clubs and Long Island is seeking revenge after losing in the fifth game last year to the Pats.
“Of course it left a sour taste in our mouths of how it ended last year,” said Lyons. “We got a lot of guys on the team from last year and we try not to reflect upon what happened. I don’t know if revenge is the right word, but we definitely want to go out there and do our best and stick it to ‘em.”
Pitcher John Brownell is slated in as the game one starter for the Ducks who finished the season 10-8 with a 3.30 era along with an impressive 147 strikeouts over 169 innings. The righthander was in this exact position last year as his club took on the Patriots in the first round, only Somerset gave him all the trouble in the world.
“It’s a new year,” said the Ducks starter. “They have different players, they have some new guys, and some of the same guys, but, you know, their lineup is different. Some guys are having a better year now that were in their lineup last year, and their staff is a little bit different. But they’ve been playing well all year, and it’s going to be a good series. They play some sound fundamental baseball in all areas so we’re going to have to play the same way.”
Like Brownell, Baez has been in this situation before, managing the Ducks in the playoffs against the Patriots. While and nor anyone else knows what to expect, they have a very good idea. He is familiar with the Patriots and was the man behind the wheel making the decision last year on the game one starter. If there is one man to steer this team in the right direction, it would most certainly be the Ducks skipper.
“We have a lot of the same guys that were there last year,” said Baez. “We got Brownie going game one and they (Patriots) know him and he knows them. It comes down to execution and making your pitches. They got two good pitchers going against us in the first two games but we’re just excited about the opportunity and we feel good about our chances.”
While Long Islands ball club struggled mightily in the second half after winning the first half championship for the fifth time in team history, the do in fact seem to be clicking on all cylinders right now. Will being hot at the right time pay off for the Ducks?