The only thing that would have made the first home game of the season better would have been a walk off hit to end the game. Instead, the Long Island Ducks went into the seventh inning down 3-0 to the New Britain Bees, only to put up a four spot on reliever Kyle Simon.
“We gotta give credit to their pitcher,” said Ducks manager Kevin Baez. “Their starting pitcher kept us silent for a while, but we grinded out at-bats and we never gave up, and that’s the approach you gotta have. It doesn’t always work out that way, but today it did.”
One of the stars of the evening was Long Island native Keith Couch from Elmont, NY. The starter faltered in the first inning after giving up a three-run home run to the Bee’s designated hitter and arguably most powerful bat in the lineup, Craig Maddox. Finishing with a line of four innings, three hits, three runs (all earned), a walk and five strikeouts, Couch knew the change-up to Maddox was a mistake.
“The home run shouldn’t have happened,” said the Ducks starter. “I saw a sign, I wasn’t convicted, I kinda wanted to shake it off, but I was like “ah screw it, I’ll just throw it”, and nothing good comes when that happens.”
Outside of the righty’s first inning mistake, he was lights out. He finished his start by sending down nine consecutive batters and 11 of the final 12. Even though he gave up the three runs in the first inning, he still managed to keep his composure and strike out the side in the first.
The game remained quiet until the Long Island ball club opened the flood gates and scored four runs in the seventh inning. Third baseman Cody Puckett lead off the inning with a walk, shortstop Dan Lyons reached after being hit, and the runs began with a two-run double off the bat of second baseman Elmer Reyes. Right fielder Fehlandt Lentini followed that up with a single of his own, as did center fielder Delta Cleary Jr. along with an RBI. With Cleary and Lentini manning first and second base with one out, the double steal was successfully completed, and former big leaguer Nolan Reimold found his way to fill the bases with a walk. Finally, a sacrifice fly to center off to wood of the newly acquired designated hitter Marc Krauss, gave the Ducks the 4-3 lead.
“I knew I was in the driver’s seat there with bases loaded,” said Krauss. “I know that if I can get a ball in the outfield, Lentini is gonna score, he has great speed. As a baseball player you go through a lot of up’s and down’s, so you get used to trying to stay as even keeled as possible. Those situations right there when you can make or break and help the team win is important and that’s how I try to approach every game.”
The Ducks pitchers continued to shut the door on their rivals from across the sound as reliever Patrick Crider came in to pitch in the eighth inning and struck out three straight batters and handed the ball over to the teams new closer and former Atlanta Braves reliever, David Aardsma. The long time MLB pitcher also went three up, three down, to earn his first save with the team and capped a near improbable comeback.
“It was great, just absolutely awesome, especially with that comeback win,” said Aardsma. “The guys just played freaking awesome tonight. Opening day, great crowd, great fans, you could hear them getting loud, this is just a great place to play.”
Ducks reliever Zac Treece (1-1) earned the victory after tossing three scoreless innings and allowing just one hit and one walk. Bee’s reliever Kyle Simon took home the loss as he threw two innings and allowed all four runs on four hits and surrendered two walks.
Long Island came into the game with a record of 3-4 after a seven game road trip and will remain here at home for the weekend before the travel to York to face the Revolution. Following that short road trip they return home to a six-game home stand where they will welcome in the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, and the Revolution.