Alex Dickerson of the Long Island Ducks follows through with...

Alex Dickerson of the Long Island Ducks follows through with his swing during a game against the Staten Island FerryHawks in Central Islip on Friday, June 30, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The Long Island Ducks needed to win and also needed some help.

The Atlantic League North Division first-half title came down to the final night of games on Friday. The Ducks trailed York by a game in the standings but held the tiebreaker between the two teams.

A Ducks win over Southern Maryland and a York loss to Lexington would give the Ducks the first-half divisional title and a playoff berth.

Before Friday, Ducks manager Wally Backman spoke to Lexington manager Barry Lyons, a former teammate from the 1986 World Series champion Mets, and asked a favor.

“I told him the day before, ‘Give me a little bit of help,’ ” Backman said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

The Ducks handled Southern Maryland, 4-1, and Lexington scored two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and beat York, 7-6. The Ducks, who missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2014, are headed back to the Atlantic League playoffs.

“Just a really wild chain of events that came down to the wire,” Ducks outfielder Alex Dickerson said. “It was pretty exciting.”

The Ducks had to win their last four games and nine of their last 11 to capture the North Division first-half championship. After dropping the final two games of a four-game series to Staten Island, the Ducks averaged 13 runs per game in a three-game sweep at Lancaster last week.

Stephen Tarpley allowed five hits, four walks and six earned runs in two innings in the Ducks’ 14-3 loss to Staten Island on Monday. On three days’ rest, he struck out eight and allowed one earned run and two hits in six innings against Southern Maryland on Friday.

“I asked [Tarpley] if he wanted the ball, and he said he absolutely wanted it,” Backman said. “He was disgusted with what happened against Staten Island. He’s got great stuff, and when he’s focused, he can pitch very well.”

The Ducks’ high-powered offense led the group through the first half of the season. They ranked third in the Atlantic League in home runs (87), second in runs (407) and second in OPS (.838).

Dickerson’s .352 batting average placed him second in the Atlantic League and Sam Travis’ 55 RBIs also were second.
Dickerson’s 13 home runs led the team, his 44 RBIs were second behind Travis and his 1.066 OPS topped all Ducks batters with more than 100 at-bats.

“We have a lot of really good hitters, and a lot of us got hot about a month or two into the season,” Dickerson said. “I think we just found our groove and started doing a lot of damage up and down the lineup.

“I’ve been in a lot of good lineups and it is one of the best I’ve ever played with,” added Dickerson, who played six seasons in the majors for San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta.

Backman credited the resilience of Dickerson and his teammates to win the first-half championship throughout a season of new faces and different lineup combinations.

This past week, the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional League purchased pitcher Stephen Woods Jr.’s contract, making him the fourth Duck this season to have his contract purchased by a major-league or foreign professional league team.

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