Ducks starter Bob Zimmermann may have bent Friday night, but the bullpen and defense snapped, causing the team to lose Game 3 of its best-of-five Liberty Division championship series against Southern Maryland at Bethpage Ballpark.
After dropping the first two games at home, Southern Maryland ended the chances of a sweep with a 7-5 victory that trimmed the Ducks' series lead to 2-1. The game was delayed 36 minutes in the first inning because of rain.
The Ducks will host Game 4 Saturday night at 7:05 with a chance to advance to their second consecutive Atlantic League championship series.
With the Ducks leading 2-1 in the top of the seventh, relief pitchers Eric Niesen and Jared Lansford allowed four runs and three hits, with two hit batters, two errors and a walk.
Niesen started the inning by hitting Mike Daniel and allowing Brian Barton's single. After the runners advanced on a sacrifice, Niesen intentionally walked Jesse Gutierrez, loading the bases. But he hit Matt Padgett to force in the tying run. Lansford then relieved Niesen and allowed a run-scoring single by Richard Mercado, who got a reprieve when first baseman Brandon Sing dropped a foul ball.
Cesar Nicolas' single made it 4-2, and Sing's throwing error on Kevin Rios' foul out allowed Padgett to score, putting Southern Maryland ahead 5-2.
"We didn't throw strikes, they were giving us outs and then we hit guys,'' Ducks manager Kevin Baez said.
With the score 7-2. Timo Perez's two-run single in the eighth reduced the Ducks' deficit to 7-4.
The Ducks added a run in the ninth and brought the winning run to the plate with two outs, but Dan Lyons grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
The Ducks opened the scoring with a long solo home run to left by Matt Esquivel in the second, and went ahead 2-1 in the fifth on a bloop double by Ray Navarrete that scored Joash Brodin.
"The one positive we can take out of this game is that we gave up a lead, had a tough couple of innings and this team fought back,'' Navarrete said. "We still feel good. We go to sleep tonight with a 2-1 series lead, playing at home Saturday night . . . and I have a feeling the outcome is going to be better.''