BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Mark Sept. 22 as the day the 2018 Atlantic League playoffs morphed into bizarro 2016. Why? Because the Liberty Division Championship Series has the chance to unfold in the exact same way it did that year, except with the teams reversed. That’s bad news for the Ducks.
In 2016, the Ducks fell behind 0-2 on the road before winning the final three games at home to shock the Somerset Patriots. After Somerset beat the Ducks, 5-3, on Saturday night in Game 4 at TD Bank Ballpark, the same type of shock could be in the offing for the Ducks this time.
“It’s baseball. Anything can happen,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “That’s why it was nice to take care of home field, which we did winning the first two games. We also knew they had good pitchers in Games 3 and 4. They took care of what they had to take care of and now it’s an exciting Game 5. We’re looking forward to it and we’re ready for the challenge.”
The Ducks took the first two games of the best-of-five series last week in Central Islip, but now the series will be decided by Game 5 on Sunday evening in New Jersey.
“I just told them to have fun with this Game 5 tomorrow, relax and be excited about it,” Baez said. “There’s no other alternative. We lost today.”
Said the Ducks’ Lew Ford, “They’re playing well right now, but I feel like the momentum can turn tomorrow, just like it did for them when we got here. We just have to come out and have a good start tomorrow and keep it going from there.
“I feel like we still have the better team. We just have to be confident out there tomorrow. We’re going to have to go out there and win this. They’re not going to give it away.”
The Ducks scored a run in the ninth, but David Washington, representing the tying run, struck out to end the game.
Ducks starter Lorenzo Barcelo made only a few bad pitches, but two of them left the ballpark. Barcelo allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one.
Ramon Flores’ RBI single in the first gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead. Solo home runs by Craig Massey and former Met Endy Chavez in the third made it 3-0.
Ducks centerfielder Daniel Fields launched a mammoth solo homer in the fifth. It was such a no-doubter that Patriots rightfielder Justin Trapp didn’t even flinch when he heard the crack of the bat. Ford then legged out an infield single, but Taylor Ard and Washington flied out to end the threat.
The Ducks had two on and one out in the first inning, but Ard and Washington struck out. They loaded the bases in the second, but Jordany Valdespin grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Patriots starter Rick Teasley allowed one run and six hits in five innings.
“We were having trouble getting guys across,” Ford said. “We got a lot of guys on base but couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”