The Ducks had no intention of letting the worst team in the Atlantic League derail their collision course toward clinching a Liberty Division second-half championship. So, despite making three errors and looking generally inept in the field during the first five innings, the Ducks woke up in the sixth and powered their way to an 8-7 victory over the New Britain Bees in front of 4,355 fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip Sunday afternoon.
Alex Burg led off the eighth with a solo home run, breaking a tie at 7. Burg, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, scored on an error after knocking a two-run double to leftfield in the sixth. As Burg passed second, Bees shortstop Michael Baca threw the ball into rightfield and Burg rounded third to score. The little league home run capped a four-run inning and brought the Ducks back from a 7-3 deficit.
“I was absolutely gassed,” Burg said. “Getting to home plate was an absolute struggle, but once you start going like that, your legs are dead. [Manager Kevin Baez] gave me the stop sign, but I didn’t think I’d be able to stop, so I had to score. Thankfully, their guy short-hopped the catcher and I was able to get in there.”
Angelo Songco went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and two runs. Lew Ford went 3-for-5.
Rob Rogers pitched a scoreless eighth and earned the win for the Ducks (34-23). Brandon League took the loss for New Britain (23-32). Ducks starter Matt Marsh did not allow an earned run and yielded only one hit in three innings.
Sloppy defense led to early runs for New Britain. Ducks rightfielder Jordan Hinshaw dropped a potential inning-ending fly ball in the first, allowing Craig Maddox to slam a two-run homer to left.
The Ducks scored three runs in the second, but made two more errors in the fourth to help New Britain score three times and take a 5-3 lead.
“You have to keep the guys loose and relaxed,” Baez said of not chiding his team for the poor defensive play. “As an ex-player, I know that’s when you play at your best. You have to stay confident and good things will happen. You can’t put any added pressure on them.”
Although it wasn’t the prettiest game in franchise history, it got the job done. The Ducks entered Sunday with a seven-game lead in the division over both the Bridgeport Bluefish and Somerset Patriots. With 13 games left, the Ducks appear poised to qualify for the playoffs for the third season in a row.
“You just control your controllables,” Baez said. “I know it’s cliché to say ‘we take it one day at a time,’ but it holds true. We can’t look too far ahead.”