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Ducks anxious to win the Atlantic League Championship Series

They're ready for a changing of the guard after losing in the last two finals.

Jordany Valdespin of the Ducks grounds out in

Jordany Valdespin of the Ducks grounds out in the first inning of Game 2 of the Liberty Division Championship Series on Thursday. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Jordany Valdespin didn’t get the chance to bring a championship to New York when he was with the Mets in 2012 and 2013, but he could bring one home with the Ducks this week — and that would mean the world to him.

“I would feel so many blessings if we won the championship,” Valdespin said before the Liberty Division Championship Series against the Somerset Patriots last week, which the Ducks won in five games on Sunday. “I could go home and be happy. Every player plays for that point — to have a ring on your hands and to make history. If we win the championship, it’s the best gift I can give to my family, friends, and to the fans here.”

Valdespin continued: “These are great fans and they have a hunger for winning a championship here. That’s why we’re here.”

And the Ducks are there again. For the third consecutive season, the Ducks have reached the best-of-five Atlantic League Championship Series. This time, they’ll face the Sugar Land Skeeters, with Games 1 and 2 scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Sugar Land, Texas, with Game 3 and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5, scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Central Islip. 

The Ducks have been swept in their last two trips to the championship series, losing to the York Revolution last season and Sugar Land two years ago. They haven’t won a championship since 2013 and are hoping that the third time (in a row) is the charm.

“We came up short last year and now we’re in a position with another opportunity,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Monday. “That’s all you can ask for yourself and your team — to get another opportunity. You feel like the more opportunities you get, you have to walk through that door soon than [later].”

Baez will send his ace, Jake Fisher, to the mound in Game 1. Fisher pitched brilliantly in Game 2 of the division series against the Patriots, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of the Ducks’ 11-1 win. Sugar Land had trouble touching him this season. Fisher was 3-1 with a 0.67 ERA and struck out 29 in four regular-season starts against them.

Fisher was on last year’s Ducks team that was swept by York, but was acquired late in the season, primarily for a postseason run. This year, with 22 starts under his belt, he feels much more of a connection with the team and an intense desire to wash the taste of last year’s sweep out of their collective mouths.

“It goes unspoken,” Fisher said. “I don’t think we need to verbalize that. I think everybody has that idea of, ‘All right, we’re here. Let’s get it done.’ It’s one of those things that goes unsaid but everybody knows.”

The Ducks will fly to Sugar Land early Tuesday morning and play Game 1 at night. It’s certainly not ideal, but such is life in the minor leagues.

“That doesn’t bother me,” Fisher said. “I’ll come in and have the right mindset, as I would if we were [on Long Island]."

Notes & quotes: Ducks third baseman Taylor Ard’s wife went into labor after Game 5 against the Patriots. He is not on the roster for the first game of the championship series, but could rejoin the team later in the week. Ard hit .409 with two RBIs and four doubles in the division series. Ducks staple Cody Puckett will play third in Ard’s place, Baez said … Pitcher Brett Marshall (ribs) is not on the active roster either, but could rejoin the team later in the series if he is cleared by doctors. Marshall hurt himself diving across the first base line in the first inning of Game 3 of the division series, but went on to pitch 5 1/3 effective innings in an 8-4 loss.

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