BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — It may have taken three tries and extra innings, but the most recent Ducks-Somerset Patriots playoff matchup stayed true to form — that is, with the Ducks winning, of course.
The Ducks topped their division rivals, 3-2, in 10 innings in the deciding Game 5 of the Liberty Division Championship Series Sunday night in front of 3,862 fans at TD Bank Ballpark.
The victory gave the Ducks their third consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series berth. They’ll face Sugar Land — which beat the Lancaster Barnstormers, 10-6, in Game 5 of the Freedom Division Championship Series on Tony Thomas’ walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning Sunday night — in a best-of-five series for the trophy.
That series is scheduled to begin in Texas on Tuesday. Game 3 and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5 will be played on Long Island, so the Atlantic League champion will be crowned in Central Islip.
Ramon Cabrera’s two-out RBI single in the 10th inning drove in Taylor Ard with what proved to be the winning run for the Ducks. “I just was aggressive,” Cabrera said. “I got two opportunities early in the game and I didn’t do it. But that’s baseball. Baseball gives you another opportunity and you have to take it.”
Game 1 starter Matt Larkins pitched a scoreless 10th to earn the save.
The Ducks won the first two games of the best-of-five series but lost on Friday and Saturday nights to force a fifth game. It is the third consecutive season that the Ducks have knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs.
“I told [Patriots manager Brett] Jodie when we exchanged lineups, ‘We didn’t think it was going to go any other way,’ ” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “They have a great organization and a great team over there. It’s just great going up against them. I know they’re bringing it.”
“I’m so happy, so proud and so excited for this opportunity,” Cabrera said. “This is big for me. We have a goal. We have three more games.”
Francisco Rodriguez allowed a leadoff double in the ninth but got out of it unscathed to send the game to extra innings.
“Nothing rattles the guy,” Baez said. “He’s a big-game pitcher and he proved that tonight.”
The Ducks started Floral Park native Dennis O’Grady, who allowed two runs and six hits in five innings. He walked two, struck out none and left with the score tied at 2.
Fernando Abad pitched three hitless innings in relief.
“He pitched aggressive,” Cabrera said. “He’s a smart guy. That’s why he pitched in the big leagues. He knows what he’s doing.”
So do the Ducks. “Our slogan is ‘find a way,’ ” Baez said. “We go into each inning with the approach of trying to win this inning.”
Notes & quotes: Ducks pitching coach John Brownell will miss the first two games of the championship series. He was suspended three games for notching his third ejection of the season in Game 4. Brownell was thrown out arguing a call at first from the dugout. The first game of the suspension was served Sunday.