There are many reasons why the Ducks are in a groove right now and one of them is John Brownell.
The Ducks topped the Sugar Land Skeeters Sunday, 3-2, at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip. Righthanded ace Brownell pitched a complete game, allowing two runs, six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts to improve to 7-3.
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The Ducks, winners of six of seven, have won three straight against the Skeeters with the final game of the series Monday night.
"He was outstanding," manager Kevin Baez said. "It was a great day for him and a great day for us. He was aggressive and his cutter and changeup were working."
Brownell retired the first 10 batters before Taylor Harbin doubled to leftfield with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Harbin stole third and scored on Travis Scott's single that sneaked over the head of Ducks third baseman Brendan Harris to give the Skeeters a 1-0 lead.
The Ducks (33-23) took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. Keith Castillo's slow-rolling single through the hole on the right side of the infield scored Harris and Adam Bailey before Dan Lyons singled to drive in Joash Brodin.
Brownell got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the sixth inning. After Scott's fielder's choice moved 11-year major-league veteran Ryan Langerhans to third, Brownell struck out Brian Barton and got Chase Lambin to fly out to deep centerfield.
"You're going to have an inning or two, or maybe three, where you're going to have to battle," Brownell said. "You just have to stay confident. They might get to you for an inning or two, but you have to keep pounding the zone."
Brownell again dodged disaster in the top of the seventh. After he mishandled a bunt, Sugar Land had the bases loaded with no outs, but only one run scored because Danny Lehmann hit into a double play and Langerhans grounded out to second.
"I felt like I should have made the play on the bunt," Brownell said. "But I threw a first-pitch cutter to the next guy and he grounded into a double play. That was huge."
Brownell finished the same way he opened the game, with two consecutive strikeouts.
The Ducks entered play Sunday three games behind the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division with two weeks remaining in the first half. The winner earns an automatic postseason bid.
"The pressure is on right now," Lyons said. "We have to make a run at this first-half title. We know that. It seems like every time we win, Somerset wins also. We have to go out their [every day] and make sure we get the W."
Lately, that hasn't been too hard.