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Ducks to open playoffs against Southern Maryland

Long Island Ducks manager Kevin Baez. (Sept. 24,

Long Island Ducks manager Kevin Baez. (Sept. 24, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The Ducks have some history to draw on as they prepare for the best-of-five Liberty Division series against Southern Maryland, which won 14 of the 20 regular-season meetings.

The potential of overconfidence, or odds, might play in the Ducks hands, bench coach Bud Harrelson believes. " '88 Mets,'' Harrelson said referring to his former team's 10-1 record against the Dodgers -- before Los Angeles beat the Mets in the National League Championship Series.

Too long ago? Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff had a far more recent example. "Last year tells us everything we need to know about this year's playoffs,'' he said. "The Ducks had a 78-47 record, best in the league, won in the divisional championship series, advanced to the championship series and lost,'' to two-time defending champion York.

The Ducks, despite a second-half record of 22-44, could wind up with home-field advantage against the Blue Crabs. After playing on the road Wednesday and Thursday, the series shifts to Long Island for games Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday. "We're chomping at the bit,'' pitcher Bob Zimmermann said. "I think the struggles of the second half brought us together even more.''

The Ducks will go with lefthander Randy Keisler (5-3, 2.63 ERA), a former Yankee, in Game 1. "You get this chance, this is what it is all about,'' he said. "The excitement and enthusiasm and all around 'ready to go' of the team is really high right now. These guys want to win. I like how our clubhouse is right now.''

Keisler, 36, was a big game pitcher on Sept. 10, 2000, when he made his major-league debut for the Yankees against the Red Sox. "That was pretty much straight fear,'' he said. "I was completely clueless. And to top it all off, in the middle of a pennant race against a historic rival at their place. I pretty much was scared to death.''

But Keisler did well, allowing only one run in five innings for his first big-league victory. "I'm older now, been around,'' he said of this start. "I don't have that fear and intimidation. I will have some jitters, I will have some nerves of excitement because of the 24 other teammates and coaches and how bad they want it . . . It definitely has a lot of meaning.''

Second baseman Ray Navarrete, who leads the team in batting average (.309), runs batted in (90) and hits (159) is in his seventh year with the Ducks. "The only thing I haven't experienced is a championship,'' he said. "I've been waiting patiently for that opportunity to finally call myself a champion on Long Island. That's the only thing I concern myself with. We've got to win this championship.''


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