The Ducks are 1-for-1 in the Wally Backman era.
After three consecutive almosts, they finally struck gold in the former Met’s first season as manager, winning the Atlantic League championship Sunday night with an 8-4 win over the Sugar Land Skeeters in the fifth and deciding game of the final series at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
“It’s fun,” Backman said. “I love New York. I’ve always loved New York. That’s who drafted me when I was 17 years old. I lived out on the Island, and to come back to New York and be able to win a championship out on Long Island is special. I have a lot of friends out there. It was a special day today.”
Deibinson Romero, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs in Game 5 and had the game-winning RBI in Game 4, was named MVP of the series.
The Ducks traded for Romero in June, and he hit .444 with two home runs and nine RBIs in the championship series. “He was the biggest acquisition we made during the year for a position player,” Backman said. “ . . . I know how valuable he is driving in runs. We were able to get that deal done and, without Deibinson, I don’t think we’re talking [about a championship] now.”
It is the Ducks’ fourth league title in their 20-year history and first since 2013. It snapped a streak of three consecutive losses in the Atlantic League Championship Series.
The Ducks were down 2-1 in the series but won Games 4 and 5 in Texas. Backman said he called a meeting after the Ducks lost Game 3 on Friday night. “I said, ‘Losing is not an option anymore and we had to go out and do what we did all year long.’ So they went out and they played their butts off yesterday and they played hard today,” he said.
Ducks starter Vin Mazzaro allowed two runs (one earned) and six hits in 6 1⁄3 innings. He struck out three and walked two.
“There were a lot of MVPs out on that field, [including] Vinny Mazzaro and the games that he pitched,” Backman said. “I think about Vinny and how he struggled as a reliever. We made him a starter and he never lost a game the rest of the year.”
The Ducks, who needed 10 innings to stave off elimination in Game 4 Saturday night, jumped on Sugar Land early and never trailed.
Hector Sanchez walked with the bases loaded in the first inning to force in Vladimir Frias with the first run of the game.
After Sugar Land’s Denis Phipps hit a solo home run in the second, the Ducks made it 3-1 in the third on Romero’s two-run single to leftfield. He drove in Lew Ford and L.J. Mazzilli.
Sanchez singled home Steve Lombardozzi and Romero’s sacrifice fly drove in Ford in the fifth to give the Ducks a 5-1 lead. Daniel Fields’ sacrifice fly made it 6-2 in the eighth.
The Skeeters scored two runs in the eighth to move within 6-4, but Cody Mincey struck out Zach Borenstein with a runner on second to end the threat.
Then Romero’s two-run homer in the ninth put the icing on the cake.
The championship cake.