An excellent debut by Ducks starter Travis Banwart was ruined by a few bloops and a major blast Sunday at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.
Viosergy Rosa’s grand slam off reliever Vin Mazzaro in the eighth inning gave the High Point Rockers a 5-3 victory over the Ducks in front of 5,608 fans.
“That’s a tough loss to have,” manager Wally Backman said. “Banwart deserved better. We just didn’t get it done.”
High Point, which is hot on the Ducks’ tail for first place in the Liberty Division’s first-half standings, took two of three this weekend.
The Ducks (27-15) lead the Rockers and Somerset Patriots by 1 1⁄2 games with a little less than a month to play. The winner of the first half will earn an automatic playoff berth.
A two-out single by David Washington in the ninth got the tying run to the plate, but Ramon Cabrera’s grounder to short ended the game. The Ducks left 11 runners on base.
Banwart exited with a 3-1 lead after the seventh and gave way to Mazzaro, who allowed a single, a walk and a bunt single before Rosa’s grand slam.
“It was just a bad day for Vinny,” Backman said. “ He left too many balls over the plate and pitched behind in the count. The bullpen was really short and [we were] really counting on Vinny and he wasn’t able to finish that game.”
Banwart, who was signed Friday after Seaford native Sean Nolin had his contract purchased by the Seattle Mariners’ organization, allowed one run, four hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Those 11 strikeouts tied the Ducks’ single-game high this season.
“The curveball later in the game was really helping,” Banwart said. “I saved it for later in the game and it helped keep the guys off balance and got me through those last couple innings.”
Banwart, who began the season in the Mexican League, is just the latest example of the Ducks’ successful pitching pipeline, which continues to pump in good arms from all over the sport to make up for losing eight pitchers to Major League Baseball and the Mexican League since the beginning of spring training.
“I thought Travis was excellent,” Backman said. “He mixed his pitches well, located his fastball and pitched to both sides of the plate.”
After High Point scored a run in the top of the second, the Ducks tied it in the bottom half when Vladimir Frias’ double drove in Rando Moreno.
Ezequiel Carrera’s sacrifice fly drove in Rey Fuentes and Daniel Fields scored on Steve Lombardozzi’s single as the Ducks took a 3-1 lead in the fourth.