For the third time in their 13-year history, and the second straight season, the Ducks will play for the Atlantic League title.
Bryant Nelson hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning and the Ducks hung on to beat Southern Maryland, 5-4, in Game 5 of the Liberty Division series Sunday night at Bethpage Ballpark.
The Ducks will play at Lancaster, which swept two-time defending champion York, in Game 1 of the best-of-five championship series Wednesday night. The Ducks' lone Atlantic League title came in 2004.
After Brandon Sing's one-out single, Nelson lifted Ben Moore's 1-and-1 offering over the ads above the rightfield fence and out of view to give the Ducks a 4-3 lead. Nelson was 2-for-19 in the series before the home run, and hadn't homered since Sept. 11.
Nelson, a 38-year-old who is in his seventh season in the Atlantic League and played last season for York's championship squad, said, "Maybe the championship is following me."
Shawn Williams added what looked to be an insurance run on his RBI single to right that made it 5-3. But the bottom of the ninth proved an eventful one for Nelson.
The third baseman fielded what should have been a double-play grounder, but his throw to second sailed into rightfield, scoring Brian Barton from first and moving Casey Benjamin to second. After a wild pitch and an intentional walk, Nelson got another chance and didn't err, as he started a rundown that got Jesse Gutierrez for the second out.
Leo Rosales, who allowed the go-ahead home run in Saturday's loss, struck out Kevin Rios with the bases loaded to end it and pick up the save. Matt Way (2-0) earned the win after striking out the side in order in the eighth.
Sing, who was 8-for-19 in the series, hit a two-run shot -- his third of the series -- to left in the fourth to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead. But Southern Maryland retook the lead with two runs in the top of the fifth on Richard Mercado's RBI groundout and Cesar Nicholas' sacrifice fly, necessitating Nelson's late-inning heroics.
Said Sing: "It's the game of baseball. You go up and down but have to keep fighting until the last out. It's been a roller-coaster ride this whole season, but the camaraderie has been great and we're the champs of our division."