The Ducks find themselves in an early hole in the Atlantic League playoffs and, if they look up, they will see Somerset Patriots rightfielder Michael Burgess holding the shovel.
Burgess went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a home run in the Ducks' 5-3 loss to the Patriots in Game 1 of the best-of-five Liberty Division championship series in front of 3,489 fans at Bethpage Ballpark on Wednesday night.
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The Ducks failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. They left 15 runners on base, including eight in the final three innings. They loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but Elmer Reyes flied out to right to end the game.
"We put ourselves in a good spot," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "We put pressure on them against their closer. It's all you could ask for. Reyes hit that ball good, but they were playing no doubles, playing a little deeper in the gap, and they made the play."
It was the third time the Ducks had loaded the bases, but failed to score each time.
Sean Burroughs went 3-for-4 with an RBI, and Fehlandt Lentini went 3-for-5 with a run for the Ducks.
Burgess jumped on Ducks starter John Brownell in the first inning, skipping a triple down the rightfield line to drive in Aharon Eggleston.
"It was a curveball," Brownell said. "You don't necessarily have to throw [Burgess] a strike. He was swinging a lot. I left it in the zone and he hit it down the line."
The Ducks tied it in the second when Dan Lyons scored on an error by Somerset second baseman Greg Hopkins, who overthrew first on a potential inning-ending double play.
The Ducks took a 2-1 lead in the third when Burroughs, the Atlantic League batting champion, singled to drive in Lew Ford. Somerset's Matt Fields tied it with a solo home run in the fourth inning and Thomas Neal's RBI single in the fifth drove in Eggleston to give Somerset a 3-2 lead.
A crushing blow for the Ducks came in the fifth when Burgess delivered a two-run home run off a Brownell changeup to extend the Patriots' lead to 5-2.
"I probably should have stayed aggressive with him with fastballs," Brownell said. "I just made a bad pitch and he took advantage of it."
Brownell took the loss. He went six innings and allowed five runs and seven hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Patriots starter Roy Merritt went six innings and allowed one earned run and six hits. He walked three, struck out three, and earned the win.
Delta Cleary Jr. scored on a wild pitch in the seventh to cut the Patriots' lead to 5-3.