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Ducks can't continue offensive momentum in loss to Southern Maryland

As it turned out, the Ducks' offensive outburst Sunday did not indicate the beginning of any sort of gluttonous trend. One day after scoring 16 times, they struggled to find any offense Monday, falling to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, 3-2, in front of 4,427 fans in a Labor Day matinee at Bethpage Ballpark.

Cody Puckett and Elmer Reyes homered for the Ducks' runs.

The loss secured a series split with the Blue Crabs, who after winning the Freedom Division first-half crown have the worst second-half record in the Atlantic League.

But none of that mattered once the first pitch was thrown.

"It's always the next day's starting pitcher," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "That's how it is. Just because you had 19 hits the day before doesn't mean that's going to translate to the next day."

That starting pitcher, Southern Maryland righty Daryl Thompson, allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, struck out seven and walked one.

"He was throwing strikes," Puckett said. "That's baseball. You have to find holes. We were hitting the ball hard, just right at people. We weren't able to get the big hit with runners on base."

After the Blue Crabs took a 2-0 lead off Darin Downs in the second inning, Puckett's leadoff homer in the fifth cut the Ducks' deficit in half.

"It was a fastball up and out," Puckett said. "I tried to put a good swing on it and got it up in the wind."

Downs (4-5) did his best to keep the offense in the game. He allowed three runs and eight hits, struck out four and walked two in six innings.

"I kept the game manageable," Downs said. "There were chances for them to blow it open, but I made some good pitches and kept them at bay."

The Blue Crabs (22-34) scored their third run in the sixth when Antone DeJesus' pop fly landed a hair shy of rightfielder Fehlandt Lentini's outstretched glove, driving in Jovan Rosa. But Downs limited the damage to that single run, striking out Tyler Wagner and forcing Fred Lewis to ground out to end the inning.

Reyes led off the seventh with a home run to cut Southern Maryland's lead to 3-2, but the Ducks (30-27) could muster only a single and a walk the rest of the game.

Blue Crabs closer Cody Eppley struck out the side in the ninth to earn his sixth save.

It remains likely that the Ducks will make the playoffs. Even with the loss, they remained two games behind the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division second-half standings when Somerset lost later Monday night at Sugar Land.

Because of the Ducks' large lead in the wild-card chase, they will miss the playoffs only if the Liberty Division is won by Bridgeport or Camden, which sat five and nine games behind Somerset, respectively, at the start of play Monday.

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