BRIDGEWATER, N.J. - With their backs to the wall in this Liberty Division Championship Series, the host Somerset Patriots staved off elimination Saturday night, beating the Ducks, 4-0. The Patriots tied the best-of-five series at 2-2 and forced a deciding Game 5 Sunday night at TD Bank Ballpark. The winner advances to the Atlantic League Championship Series and will face Southern Maryland.
Each team will turn to its Game 1 pitcher in Game 5. Righthander John Brownell will go for the Ducks and lefthander Roy Merritt will pitch for Somerset.
In Game 4, Will Oliver pitched a three-hitter and the Patriots got their runs in the sixth and seventh innings to keep their season alive.
"He had a good fastball, he had a good off-speed [pitch] -- he wasn't nibbling, he was coming right after us,'' Ducks first baseman Sean Burroughs said of Oliver. "He pitched a phenomenal game. You tip your cap to him. They got some timely hitting and we've got to erase that from our minds and get ready for [Sunday night].''
Ducks pitcher Bruce Kern matched Oliver for the first five innings before cracking in the sixth. Kern faced the minimum in the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth, but he was able to work out of a two-on, none-out situation and then a bases-loaded, two-out jam to keep it scoreless.
The Patriots finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Thomas Neal hit a line drive to leftfield. The Ducks' Delta Cleary Jr. tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball got under him and rolled toward the wall, allowing Neal to get to second on what was ruled a double. Kern intentionally walked red-hot rightfielder Michael Burgess, but Matt Fields bounced a single through the left side. As Neal raced around third and headed for home, Cleary charged the ball, but his throw home was wide and couldn't be handled by catcher Mike Blanke. Neal scored and both runners took an extra base on the throw.
David Vidal followed with a double into the gap in right-center to drive in two runs as Somerset took a 3-0 lead. Vidal injured his leg sliding into second base and left the game for a pinch runner before Kern got the third out of the inning.
Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Neal's double was the turning point in the game, but he defended Cleary's decision to try for the spectacular play. "He makes those plays,'' Baez said. "It was just one of those things where it got underneath him. Obviously, if he kept it in front of him, it would have been better, but it didn't happen.''
Southern Maryland beat Lancaster, 6-0, in Game 4 to win the Freedom Division Championship Series and reach the Atlantic League Championship Series.