With a packed house on hand in Bethpage, NY for game three in the first round of the 2016 ALPB playoffs, the Long Island Ducks held on for the victory over the Somerset Patriots by the score of 7-1. With the victory tonight, the Ducks now trail the series 2-1.
“We understand that once playoffs start, it’s all about pitching, defense, and timely hitting,” said Ducks manager Kevin Baez. “We were confident for sure, we love playing in front of our fans, and we feel good about our chances here at home.”
Out of the gate, the game appeared it would be a pitching duel, and one for the ages. Both starters, Nick Struck (LI) and Alexis Candelario (SOM), came out firing as both sent down the first eight batters.
“We wanted to set the tone early, get good pitches, and get some guys out,” said Struck. “I just looked at tonight as another game. The mound to home is sixty feet six inches, the bases are ninety feet, everything is the same for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a playoff game of a regular season game. Obviously the atmosphere tonight was a little bit bigger, but you just have to look at it as the same game.”
Shortstop Scott Kelly of Somerset picked up the the first hit with a single up the middle in the third inning, but was never able to cross the plate. The home team on the other hand saw left fielder Anthony Vega score the first run after hitting a two-out double and then being driven home as a result of a single by right fielder Fehlandt Lentini.
“Obviously we needed this game,” said Vega. “I think we played the kind of baseball that we’re capable of playing at the pace we’re used to when things are going well. I think more than just a win is how we won this game and we never let up. We never got satisfied with the lead and that’s what’s important. We got contributions up and down the lineup tonight and that was good.”
Vega, who went 2-2, was correct with his comments about hits up and down the lineup as five players (Lentini, Ford, Puckett, Ruben Gotay, and Vega) had at least two hits.
After seeing action in the third, Struck shut down the Patriots to start the fourth and the Ducks went right back to work. The flock put together three consecutive hits by DH and “captain” Lew Ford, third baseman Cody Puckett, and second baseman Ruben Gotay. Ford proved to be a key contributor to the teams success as he teed off in the sixth inning with a two-run home run to center field, the deepest part of the ball park.
“I got a fastball that he had struck me out on earlier in the game and I was just trying to make good contact and finally put some good wood on the ball,” said Ford. “They beat us pretty good yesterday though, and we came out today and Struck set the tempo, quick innings, and pitched a great game and that was the real key to keep them off the board early.”
As the clubs entered the seventh inning with the home team up 4-1, the Patriots showed life with a lead off homer by former Major League All-Star of the Chicago Cubs in 2012, Bryan LaHair. The first baseman, slated in as the designated hitter, was also an Atlantic League All-Star this season.
Lentini put the Flock on the board with yet another RBI in the seventh inning as he drove in catcher Mike Dowd. The eighth inning also saw heavy action as Puckett reached third on a throwing error by Somerset first baseman Kyle Roller, then scored on the same play with a second error by left fielder Aharon Eggleston. Tyler Colvin would provide the nail in the coffin for the Ducks as he homered to right center just two batters later.
Long Island hosts the Patriots in game four tomorrow night at Bethpage Ballpark. The matchup will be of a familiar face for the home team as they face former Duck (’13-’14) Shaun Garceau. The flock will send Jarret Leverett to the mound.