When the New York Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics in 2001, the world was in shock, especially when the Yanks were down 2-0 in the best of five series. Well, the Long Island Ducks were able to experience that rush of emotions too as they defeated the Somerset Patriots in a best of five series after being down 2-0 as well.
“Woooo! You could put that in the papers,” exclaimed Ducks manager Kevin Baez. “I’m just so proud of the guys. When we got here I just told that that it’s not over and that we’re playing at home, in front of our fans and we play well here. Just take it one day at a time and one game at a time, and we did it.”
After losing the first two games to the Division Champion Patriots, the Ducks found a way to over come the deficit and land themselves in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Championship round. John Brownell lead the way as he closed out the series with the victory on the mound.
“I feel fine. You know, at this point, you’re not thinking about any soreness or tightness, you’re ready to go,” said Brownell. “We had the momentum going into the game and I was real excited to be out there on the mound tonight.”
The Ducks set the tone early as they racked up four runs in the bottom of the first inning. While just one run was credited against the Somerset starter Will Oliver, Long Island saw Fehlandt Lentini, Dan Lyons, Lew Ford, and Ruben Gotay all come across the plate. With hit after hit, along with one Patriots error, the flock nearly batted around the order to let Somerset know, they weren’t going down without a fight.
“I’ve seen a lot of heart. A lot of guys would have given up down 2-0, but we took it as a challenge, we came all the way back and we surprised a lot of people,” said Ducks captain Lew Ford. “Nick Struck threw a great game Friday, [Jarret] Leverett yesterday, Brownell today, it started with those guys, but we had to win each game and the guys came together and did it.
After Long Island scored four runs in the first inning, they tacked on an additional run in the second as Anthony Vega scored the fifth run on a wild pitch during a Delta Cleary Jr. at bat. The home town native, Vega, has shined at home during the playoffs as he has fought for his spot and earned every bit of it. The left fielder has batted 4-7 with one home run and a walk at home during the first round.
“This has been a great team effort the last three days,” said Long Island left fielder Vega. “Somerset is a real great team, you know, it’s tough to go out there and beat them three times in a row. Our pitching staff did a great job keeping them in check the last few games and that has been just incredible.”
The Ducks split the season series with the Patriots 10-10 and showed little life towards the end of the season. With a depleted pitching staff, and a lineup that was changed day in and day out, many fans were wondering if Long Island would even win a single game in the playoffs. The only reason they were in the first round was due to clinching the first half Championship. After grinding out every at bat and every pitch, the team put together a run that resembled that of their first half style of play.
“We’re playing great right now,” said Ford. “It comes down to our pitching. Our pitching has been great throughout and looking at the next series, that’s going to be key for us. If our pitching is there, then we’re going to be in every game next series against the Sugar Land Skeeters.”
The Ducks will begin a run at their first Championship title since 2013 as they face the Sugar Land Skeeters beginning Tuesday night in Texas. Sugar Land breezed through the York Revolution in a sweep in the first round as they prepare for the surging Ducks.
“They’re a very good team,” said Baez about the Skeeters. “I have all the respect in the world for that team. They have a great manager in Gary Gaetti down there along with a great coaching staff, we got our hands full and we’re just going to enjoy this now and come ready on Tuesday.”