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Ducks finish disappointing season with a loss

Long Island Ducks relief pitcher Tommy Organ hangs

Long Island Ducks relief pitcher Tommy Organ hangs his head after giving up a first-pitch home run in a game against Maryland on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 at Bethpage Ballpark. Credit: George A. Faella

It was the funk that got the Ducks down in 2014. A 13-game losing streak at the beginning of the second half put the defending Atlantic League champions in a major hole. But it wasn't until the final weeks of the season that their quest for a third consecutive title was squashed.

An 8-5 loss to Southern Maryland Sunday at Bethpage Ballpark marked the Ducks' 12th loss in their final 15 games.

"I've never had it that bad," Lew Ford said of the multiple second-half skids. "There wasn't one thing you could point to. We just couldn't find a way to win close games and that ended up hurting us."

The Ducks (32-38) were 19-33 in one-run games. It's the first season since 2010 that they failed to make the postseason and only the second since 2003.

"This is unfamiliar territory," manager Kevin Baez said. "We're not really quite sure how to handle this . . . We don't like it. It's disappointing."

The long ball bit the Ducks three times Sunday. C.J. Ziegler's two-run home run in the fourth keyed a four-run frame for the Blue Crabs (39-31). The Ducks scored three in the seventh to cut the lead to 7-4. But Jake Opitz's single in the eighth scored Bobby Stevens to push the lead back to four. The Ducks finished the year with an overall record of 73-67, and Ford -- who set the Atlantic League record for hits with 189 -- became the first player in league history to play in all 140 games.

The Ducks cut the lead to three in the bottom of the fourth after a C.J. Retherford single drove in Ford. But Joash Brodin flew out to right to end the inning with Cody Puckett on first. Opitz's solo home run in the fifth gave Southern Maryland a 5-1 lead.

The home runs didn't stop when Ducks starter Shaun Garceau left the game. Jamar Walton led off the sixth with a blast off Tommy Organ to make it 6-1. Fehlandt Lentini's single in the bottom half of the inning drove in Brodin to cut the lead to 8-5.

Garceau took the loss. He lasted five innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, struck out five and walked one. Garceau finished the year 13-4 with a 4.99 ERA. Ian Marshall earned the win for Southern Maryland.

Notes & quotes: Before the game, Ducks pitching coach Steve Foucault, 64, announced his retirement from professional baseball. The former big-league reliever has led the Ducks staff for the last four seasons.

New York Sports