The Ducks' first-half championship hopes are still alive . . . for one more night, at least. A 7-4 win over the Lancaster Barnstormers Wednesday night at Bethpage Ballpark helped the Ducks stave off elimination. However, a Somerset Patriots victory over Camden lowered the Ducks' tragic number to one.
The Ducks sit 4 1/2 games back of the Patriots with four games to play. The two teams play a three-game series this weekend at Bethpage Ballpark to close out the half. To win the first half, the Ducks would need to win the final four games, win a suspended game against Lancaster from May 18, which will resume on July 13, and have Somerset lose out. The first half champion earns an automatic playoff bid.
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"We can only control what we can control," manager Kevin Baez said.
And so far, they have been control freaks. Wednesday night's win was the Ducks' 43rd of the first half, the most ever in a single half in their 16-year history.
Jon Griffin's hard hit two-run single to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth inning drove in Reegie Corona and Bryan Sabatella and broke a tie at 3. Cody Puckett then blooped a single to rightfield to drive in Lew Ford and give the Ducks a 6-3 lead.
"They were coming with fastballs away since the first game of the series," Griffin said of the tie-breaking single. "I was struggling and working with Randy [Ruiz] and Lew [Ford] in the cage, just trying to get through the ball and not trying to do too much. As soon as I saw that they kept throwing it away, I told myself 'just touch it.' It paid off. I got two RBIs out of it."
The Ducks scored three runs in the second. Corona's ground rule double drove in Prentice Redman. The next batter, Lew Ford, slammed a first-pitch single into centerfield to drive in Corona and put the Ducks up 3-0.
But, Lancaster tied the game with a three-run fourth. Ducks starter Billy Buckner walked Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Wilson Batista and hit Luke Hughes to load the bases with no one out. Brandon Jones, the fourth batter of the inning, singled to score Cavazos-Galvez. Batista scored from third on Juan Apodaca's double-play ball and Anderson Feliz's single drove in Hughes to knot the score.
Cavazos-Galvez's solo home run in the fifth cut the Ducks lead to 6-4. Lancaster reliever Frank De Los Santos walked Corona with the bases loaded in the seventh, forcing in Redman and increasing the Ducks lead to 7-4.
Bucker earned the win, his fifth of the season. He allowed four runs on six hits in five innings. Ryan Kussmaul notched his 20th save of the season. Lancaster starter Nate Reed allowed six runs on ten hits in 3 2/3 innings and took the loss.
Notes & quotes: The Mets signed righthanded pitcher Mickey Jannis to a minor-league contract and was assigned to single-A Port St. Lucie. Jannis, who began the season on the Ducks roster, was leading the Atlantic League in ERA (1.18), strikeouts (67), and innings pitched (83.2). The knuckleballer had allowed one earned run or less in each of his last 13 appearances, including eight starts. Jannis is the fifth Ducks player to be signed by a major league organization this season . . . Seven Ducks were selected to the 18th annual Atlantic League All Star Game, scheduled for Wednesday in Bridgeport. Ford, Sabatella, Kussmaul, Puckett and Griffin, along with starting pitcher Ian Marshall and shortstop Dan Lyons were all chosen by media, league official, and coaching staff voting.