The Ducks are still looking for that elusive victory in Atlantic League Championship Series — and Tuesday night, it slipped right out of their hands. The Ducks, who were swept in their last two appearances in the independent league’s final salvo and haven’t won a championship since 2013, blew a two-run eighth-inning lead and fell, 5-4, in 13 innings to the Sugar Land Skeeters in Game 1 of the best-of-five series at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
Javier Betancourt’s sacrifice fly off Hector Silvestre drove in Tony Thomas with the winning run in the 13th at 1:01 a.m. Eastern time.
Sugar Land scored two runs in the eighth off reliever Jose Cuas to tie the score at 4. Thomas’ single drove in Juan Silverio to cut the Ducks’ lead to 4-3 and Derek Norris’ double drove in Thomas, who went to second on a wild pitch earlier in the at-bat, and tied it.
The Ducks led 3-0 earlier in the game.
The Ducks flew to Texas early Tuesday morning — a 3 a.m. bus from Central Islip, followed by a 6 a.m. flight. But the adrenaline of a championship series was enough to carry them through a long day that is sometimes part of life in minor-league baseball.
Early on, the early hours didn’t seem to faze the Ducks.
The Ducks sent eight men to the plate in the first inning and Lew Ford, the Ducks’ elder statesmen who also led the team in games played this season, hit a three-run home run to give the Ducks a 3-0 lead
Ducks ace Jake Fisher was excellent again — the early morning not fazing the lefty linchpin of the Ducks’ staff. Fisher allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked four.
The performance was true to form for Fisher, who dominated Sugar Land all season. He was 3-1 with a 0.67 ERA and struck out 29 in four regular-season starts against the Skeeters.
Sugar Land scored two runs in the fifth. Anthony Giansanti’s RBI single drove in Barrett Barnes and Silverio’s sacrifice fly drove in Alvaro Rondon to cut the Ducks’ lead to 3-2.
Cody Puckett’s solo home run in the eighth gave the Ducks a 4-2 lead. Puckett was inserted into the starting lineup because Taylor Ard, who played third in the division series, left the team to be with his wife, who went into labor after the Ducks’ dramatic Game 5 victory Sunday.
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Texas. Games 3 and, if necessary, 4 and 5 are scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.