Before Friday, the Ducks had not won an Atlantic League Championship Series game since 2013. Now they have won twice in two days — and the three-time Atlantic League champions will have a chance to win a fourth league crown.
Ducks starting pitcher and Floral Park product Dennis O’Grady was outstanding through seven innings as the Ducks beat Sugar Land, 6-3, in Game 4 before 3,193 at Bethpage Ballpark on Saturday night.
The Ducks forced a deciding Game 5 at 5:05 p.m. Sunday in Central Islip, and Ducks manager Kevin Baez said he isn’t concerned about the winner-take-all game.
“I’m proud of the team either way,” he said. “We won a Game 5 against Somerset [for the Liberty Division championship]. We’ll just go out and play baseball.”
A two-out gapper by the Skeeters’ Matt Chavez brought home Anthony Giansanti to put Sugar Land up 1-0 in the first, but
the Ducks responded in the bottom of the inning.
After Jordany Valdespin singled and reached second on an error, he moved to third and scored on a pair of wild pitches by Skeeters starter Dallas Beeler. The Ducks’ Daniel Fields (2-for-3) walked and eventually scored on Beeler’s third wild pitch of the inning to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead.
Valdespin lined a two-run double to rightfield in the second to give the Ducks a 4-1 lead, and a two-run bloop single to center by Cody Puckett (3-for-4) made it 6-1 in the third. The Ducks chased Beeler, who was 8-2 with a 2.29 ERA in the regular season, with one out in the third.
Meanwhile, O’Grady hit his stride after allowing that first-inning run. The Archbishop Molloy product set down 15 of the next 18 batters. “O’Grady, what a gamer,” Baez said. “That was a well-pitched game. He settled down after the first inning and the offense came alive . . . He’s a big-game pitcher. The moment isn’t too big for him.”
The 5-10 righthander allowed two runs, six hits and two walks in his longest outing of the season. “It was nice to get settled down after the first inning,” said Grady, who utilized his cutter and slider to keep the Skeeters off balance. “It was great to come back with six runs over the next three innings. It lets you go out and pound the [strike] zone and make them beat you.”
Valdespin — who led the league in hits (154) and runs (94) during the regular season — was 2-for-5. He has reached base safely in all nine of the Ducks’ postseason games.
After the game, O’Grady was on the field taking pictures with family and friends.
“That was special,” he said. “I have a lot of support from my family and a select group of friends. Some people say they have a little extra pressure [with a group at the game]. But it helps me concentrate a little more on what I have to do.”