BRIDGEWATER, N.J. - The old axiom in baseball is that good pitching stops good hitting. The Ducks found that out in painful fashion this weekend as their season was ended by brilliant pitching from the Somerset Patriots.
Lefthander Roy Merritt tossed a four-hit shutout Sunday night as Somerset won Game 5 of the Liberty Division Championship Series, 4-0, at TD Bank Ballpark to advance to the Atlantic League Championship Series.
It was the second consecutive 4-0 win for the Patriots, who trailed the best-of-five series 2-1 after the Ducks' win here Friday night. Will Oliver blanked the Ducks Saturday night, allowing only three hits in his complete-game effort.
"We have to give credit to their pitching staff the last two nights. Two complete-game shutouts," Ducks centerfielder Lew Ford said. "I feel like our guys battled, our pitchers kept us close. They did a great job. And we just didn't get the breaks. And we didn't hit the ball."
The Patriots, who had a league-best 89 wins in the regular season, will face the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the championship series, which begins Wednesday.
The Ducks, who had the second-best record in the league (80-59), had 13 hits in Friday night's 9-4 win but were stymied by Oliver and Merritt in the last two games.
"As a whole, I mean, 80 wins, great first half, getting to the playoffs, I'm proud of the team," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "Obviously, right now, I'm upset, I'm frustrated. Your goal is to win a championship. Anything short of that is, you know, disappointing."
The Patriots struck in the fourth, plating two runs after two were out, and the Ducks were fortunate not to give up more than that. With two on, No. 9 hitter Nate Spears singled hard to left. Anthony Vega charged and fired home as the runner from second, Matt Fields, was waved around by third-base coach Shane Spencer. The ball beat Fields to the plate, but Mike Blanke couldn't handle the bounce and dropped the ball.
Robert Andino walked and Ducks pitcher John Brownell, after getting ahead in the count 0-and-2, hit Aharon Eggleston with a pitch to force in the second run. The Patriots could have broken it open when Thomas Neal drove a ball deep to right-center, but Ford made a great running catch to end the inning.
Brownell went 12-6 in the regular season but took the loss in Games 1 and 5. He gave up two more runs in the fifth, and that was more than enough for Merritt and Somerset.