BRIDGEWATER, N.J. - Win or lose, Sunday night's Game 5 of the Atlantic League Championship Series was going to be the finale for the Long Island Ducks' Ray Navarrete.
Navarrete, making his first start of the series, had a big hand in ensuring that his last game would be a memorable one. The designated hitter's three-run homer to leftfield in the fourth inning gave the Ducks the lead for good as they defeated the Somerset Patriots, 6-4, at TD Bank Ballpark to win their second consecutive league championship.
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The Ducks won the series 3-2 after walk-off losses in 10 and 16 innings in Games 3 and 4 in Bridgewater.
After rightfielder Adam Bailey's series-ending catch close to the wall and the celebration on the mound, Navarrete was carried on the shoulders of his teammates to the dugout.
"We weren't swinging the bat well and we needed a spark," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said about his decision to start Navarrete. "To go out like this is special. He deserves it."
Somerset scored in the first, but with one out in the fourth, the Ducks' Bill Hall picked up one of his two doubles and advanced to third on a groundout. Ramon Castro singled up the middle to tie the score, Ryan Strieby walked and Navarrete went deep on David Harden's first offering.
"I walked up to the plate and said I was going to let it go if he threw a first-pitch fastball," said Navarrete, an eight-year member of the Ducks. "That home run felt like it took two hours to get over the wall."
An RBI double by Bryant Nelson (three hits) and Bailey's RBI single in the fifth gave the Ducks a 6-2 lead. Lew Ford (three hits) had started the inning with a single.
John Brownell, the winning pitcher in Game 1, pitched into the ninth inning of this game and was named finals MVP.
He walked Jonny Tucker and allowed an RBI double by Yunesky Sanchez in the first inning but then settled down. Sanchez and Jeff Baisley hit solo homers, but the Patriots never caught up after Navarrete's homer. "Brownell's been our bulldog all year," Baez said.
Brownell said: "I just kept confident. There was a lot of game left. I trust in our hitters and defense to pick me up, and they did."
The Patriots got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Leo Rosales picked up the save and the Ducks earned the title.
"That's the last time I'm going to be on the field as a player," said Navarrete, 35. "You couldn't be more grateful how it ended, like a perfect ending in a movie."