After compiling a franchise-record 46 wins during the first half, you could almost excuse a down game for the Ducks during the long, arduous season.
But as the dog days of summer hit Long Island -- it was a hot and humid 88 degrees at game time late Sunday afternoon -- the Ducks have motivation to make sure that every pitch counts.
They played a tight game against the first-place Somerset Patriots at Bethpage Ballpark but dropped the rubber match of the series, 2-1, to the first-half champions to fall to 5-5.
The 46 first-half wins were good for only second place in the Atlantic League's Liberty Division. The Ducks will be guaranteed a playoff spot if they win the division in the second half but can also make it as a wildcard if Somerset or Southern Maryland repeat as second half champions of their respective divisions.
"We just need to approach the game the same way,'' catcher Mike Blanke said. "It's just been an unfortunate last couple of games and it just seems like we haven't been able to come up with the big hit. They pitched well, but I'm confident in my team and that we'll bounce back.''
Blanke accounted for the Ducks' run with a homer in the second inning. He also had a one-out double in the seventh but was stranded at second base. Both hits came off starter Lucas Irvine.
"He had a great cutter and he made the pitches when he had to,'' Blanke said. "I think we did a good job battling, but he made his pitches.''
Somerset opened the scoring in the second inning when Nate Spears drove in Adam Donachie with a single to rightfield. Blanke's homer tied it before Michael Burgess put the Patriots ahead for good with a solo homer in the fourth.
Steve McQuail, a Wantagh native who signed with the Ducks on July 11, had four home runs in his first three starts. He ripped a deep drive that went just foul in the ninth before striking out to end the game.
"I've been playing in a lot of different places. I've been all over,'' McQuail said. "When I got the call and there was an opportunity here, I was more excited than any time I've been in my career.''
The Ducks, who are 5-4 against Somerset in July, still have three games left against the Patriots at the end of the month.
"We're really confident in our ability and we know we have a chance to win every single night,'' McQuail said. "We just have to let the game handle itself and go out and play hard.''