Delta Cleary Jr. walked around the Ducks’ clubhouse Sunday afternoon, rapping along with the Snoop Dogg song blaring over the speakers, a smile on his face and a swagger in his step. And why not? A week ago, Clearly was returning from a 31-game stint on the disabled list, a broken left hand the unfortunate culprit. Seven days later, he was the hero — with both his bat and his glove.
Cleary’s walk-off infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in pinch-runner Carlos Hughes and Fehlandt Lentini in the Ducks’ 3-2 win over the Lancaster Barnstormers in front of 5,432 fans celebrating Father’s Day at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.
Lentini scored the winning run from second on a throwing error by Lancaster shortstop Kevin Ahrens.
“It was pretty crazy,” Cleary said of the final at-bat. “(Lancaster closer Cory Burns) made two good pitches. With two strikes on me, my goal is just to put it in play and let what happens happen.”
“He’s a guy you need playing,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said of Cleary. “When he’s playing, we’re better. It’s a big lift.”
It was the third walk-off win this season for the Ducks (32-24). All three came against Lancaster (28-27). Ducks reliever Kevin Vance, who threw two hitless innings, earned his second win of the season. Burns was handed his second loss.
The Ducks have been riddled with injuries, with four of their best offensive players — Lew Ford, Sean Burroughs, Tyler Colvin and Dan Lyons — on the disabled or inactive list.
“We needed this one,” Baez said.
The Ducks’ offense struggled until the two-run ninth, scratching out their only other run in the third when a sky-high pop-fly by former-Met Ruben Gotay landed between the Lancaster infielders and onto the pitching mound, driving in Matt Wessinger. Wessinger and Cleary were the only Ducks with two hits.
Ducks starter and Yaphank product Bruce Kern pitched six scoreless innings, working in and out of trouble. He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked three. Kern escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the second and a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth, Cleary’s diving catch in center in the third kept the games scoreless.
“It was just instincts,” Cleary said. “Kern made a good pitch. I read the swing out in the outfield. I saw it, felt it was a good time to go for it and made the catch.”