SUGAR LAND, Texas — The Ducks have proven that they can come back from deficits. They did so in the previous round of the playoffs. And they’ll need to again if they want to win another Atlantic League championship.
On Tuesday in the first game of the best-of-five championship series at Constellation Field, Sugar Land hammered Long Island, 7-1.
The Skeeters, who have won their last seven games, roughed up Ducks starter Bobby Blevins (0-1), who allowed four hits in each of the first and fourth innings. In Sugar Land’s fourth, the righthanded Blevins allowed two-run home runs to the No. 9 hitter Juan Martinez and Jeremy Barfield.
“That’s a huge inning they had,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “It happened so quick, I’m getting somebody [warming up] and it’s already four runs.”
Cody Puckett and Tyler Colvin had two hits each for the Liberty Division champion Ducks, who are playing in their fourth Atlantic League Championship Series in six years and seeking their fourth league title.
Noted as a good-hitting team, the Ducks had limited success against Skeeters starter Jake Hale (1-0), who left after six innings with the Skeeters ahead 6-1. The Ducks had seven hits off Hale but left five runners on base and hit into two double plays.
The Ducks were outhit 14-8.
“We didn’t string them together when we needed to,” Colvin said. “It just didn’t happen for us. We let them get four [runs]. That’s where we have to answer right back. But we didn’t.
“There’s no panic. We would have loved to have won Game 1, but that’s the way it goes. We’ll battle and try to win Game 2.”
Once again the Ducks have dug themselves into a hole by losing the first game of a playoff series. Long Island rallied from a 2-0 hole to eliminate Somerset and reach the championship series for a fifth time. The Skeeters advanced to the championship series by coming from behind to win all three games against York in sweeping the Freedom Division.
The Skeeters scored twice in the first inning and took control of the game with four runs in the fourth off Blevins, who in a four-inning stint allowed six runs and nine hits with one strikeout and one walk.
“He tried to keep us in the game, but it just didn’t work out,” Baez said. “Hale had his good stuff and we couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
In the second inning, the Ducks cut the deficit to 2-1. Lew Ford, who opened with a walk, scored on a double play hit by Ruben Gotay, who hit into two double plays. Colvin and Mike Dowd followed with singles off Hale, but were stranded on base.
Daniel Herrera relieved Blevins in the fifth inning. The lefthander allowed only one run in his four innings.
The best-of-five series continues here Wednesday. Righthander Matt Larkins will oppose Sugar Land’s Michael Nix.
Long Island won the season series 11-9, splitting the 10 games in Texas. The Ducks took two out of three games here in the final week of the regular season.