At least from a historical perspective, few could have foreseen the Ducks being at this point at this moment. After two straight losses to the rival Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division Championship Series last week, the Ducks climbed on the bus back to Central Islip needing to win three straight games at home or start thinking about 2017.
In their 16 previous seasons, the Ducks never had won a playoff series after being down 0-2. And, after striking out 16 times in Game 2, it was hard for some to fathom how that streak would end. But, none of those non-believers were rolling down the New Jersey Turnpike late Thursday night.
“On that bus ride back, we weren’t down at all,” said Ducks starter Matt Larkins, who was chased early in Game 2. “Everybody was really positive and just knew that we were going to win three straight.”
They were right. The Ducks completed the historic playoff comeback Sunday night and will face the Sugar Land Skeeters in the best-of-five Atlantic League Championship Series, scheduled to begin Tuesday night in Sugar Land, Texas.
Sugar Land swept York in the Freedom Division Championship Series, coming from behind to win all three games.
A Ducks series victory would mark the fourth championship in franchise history and third since 2012.
“It would mean everything,” said Ducks manager Kevin Baez, who has been a part of all three prior championships. “The way we came back against a great team and great organization, down 0-2, if we could just keep riding this wave to a championship, it would just be awesome.”
Righthander Bobby Blevins (2-12, 5.51 ERA) will start Game 1 for the Ducks against Sugar Land’s Jake Hale (6-3, 3.73 ERA). Blevins did not pitch in the LDCS, but does have considerable experience pitching in big games. He started Game 5 of both the 2012 division and championship series, both Ducks victories.
“I’ve been there and done it,” Blevins said. “It’s my time to do what I have to do . . . I understand how big this game is and I’m ready to take it and do what I have to do. Physically, I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m ready, so just give me the ball.”
Larkins will get that ball in Game 2 and Nick Struck, whose gem in Game 3 of the LDCS sparked the Ducks’ comeback, will start Game 3 Friday night in Central Islip. The Ducks have not announced starters for Games 4 or 5.