Long Island Ducks starting pitcher Setphen Woods Jr. delivers a...

Long Island Ducks starting pitcher Setphen Woods Jr. delivers a pitch in a game against the Lancaster Stormers, Thursday, April 25, 2024 at Fairfield Properties Ballpark. Credit: George A Faella

They popped out of the dugout one by one and took their places along the foul lines, first the Lancaster Stormers, then the Ducks.

After the introductions, there was a moment of silence for the co-owner and co-founder of the Ducks, the late Bud Harrelson, and a ceremonial first pitch.

And then came the real first pitch from Stephen Woods Jr. The 24th season of Ducks baseball was underway.

“We’re representing Long Island,” new manager Lew Ford said in the dugout before the game. “We’re the hometown team here. We always have great fan support. They make it exciting for us to play in front of [them]. It’s something I tell the guys. It’s something they’ve got to experience.”

The Ducks gave the announced crowd of 4,006 a reward for sitting through the 40-something chill Thursday night at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip, opening with a 6-2 win.

“It’s good to get off to a good start,” said Ford, the Ducks’ all-time hits leader who replaced Wally Backman as manager in November. “I think there were a lot of positives to take out of the game.”

This is Ford’s 14th season with this Atlantic League franchise. He spent the past nine as a player/coach. He likes the look of this edition.

“We’ve got a great team,” Ford said.

Their parade of five relievers looked great, allowing no runs, four hits and three walks and fanning seven over the final 4 2/3. Ramon Santos nailed down the last two outs of the fifth and picked up the victory.

“All those guys responded well,” Ford said.

Woods had his moments, too. The 28-year-old righthander from Huntington was charged with two runs and five hits over his 4 1/3-inning outing. He struck out nine and walked three.

He used to pitch for Half Hollow Hills East, once throwing back-to-back no-hitters. He also used to pitch in the San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Kansas City organizations.

Woods began last season with the Ducks and was 7-2 with a 3.77 ERA across 11 starts when he signed in early July to pitch in Taiwan. And now he’s back.

“I want to get to the major leagues,” Woods said. “I feel like the best route there is for me to come back here, do my job, win, and then hopefully a team can grab me from here.”

It was a 2-2 game heading for the last of the fifth.

Lancaster starter Brad Markey hit Hector Gomez with a pitch to force in the go-ahead run, then gave up a sac fly to Chance Sisco.

The relievers protected the lead.

Trevor Bettencourt was on in the seventh, and the Stormers packed the bases with one out on a walk and two singles. But Bettencourt got Joseph Carpenter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

A groundout off the bat of Gomez made it 5-2 in the bottom half of the frame.

Lancaster threatened again in the eighth, this time against Sam Delaplane. But the righty struck out Isan Diaz with two in scoring position to escape.

Ford was bound for win No. 1.

“He’s had a long career here and in other places,” Delaplane said. “For us to get the first one for him on the first night, it’s a big deal.”

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