On Jarret Leverett’s 98th and final pitch of the evening, with two runners on base in the top of the seventh, the Ducks’ lefthander looked straight up. It was a seemingly harmless infield pop fly, the kind pitchers usually ignore. But this one wasn’t that high, and it was dropping down right on the mound.
“When it’s right on top of you like that, I like to stay there,” Leverett said. “I said, ‘I got it’ once and I was anticipating someone would call me off. No one did so I reached out and caught it. It almost came out.”
Leverett’s snow-cone snare ended a threat and the bullpen did its job in a 2-0 win Saturday night as the Ducks evened their Liberty Division best-of-five Championship Series at 2-2 against the Somerset Patriots before a crowd of 2,716 at Bethpage Ballpark.
The Ducks, who lost the first two games of the series on the road and have won both home games, will host Game 5 tonight at 5:05. The winner will play for the Atlantic League championship in a best-of-five series against the Freedom Division champion Sugarland Skeeters beginning on Tuesday.
“He showed me guts,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said of Leverett, who allowed six hits, struck out five and walked one. “We talked about stepping up and Leverett did just that. He wasn’t afraid of the moment.”
Amalio Diaz pitched a scoreless eighth and Todd Coffey did the same in the ninth for the save.
Ducks leftfielder Anthony Vega, a former Patchogue-Medford High School teammate of Toronto Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, continued his hot hitting by following Tyler Colvin’s double with a two-run homer over the rightfield fence over former Duck Shaun Garceau for the game’s only runs. He is 4-for-10 in the series and was 7-for-21 on the Ducks’ final road trip.
“I’ve been working on stuff in batting practice and taking it into the game,” Vega said. “I’ve shortened my stride and things got a little easier.”
Of his home run, Vega said, “I thought it was a changeup and that’s odd because I don’t usually hit those.”
It was, according to Baez, the only mistake Garceau made. He allowed only four hits in 6 2⁄3 innings. “He was outstanding. He knew us and we knew him,” he said. “One bad pitch and who knew that would be it?”
There were other scoring opportunities for both teams. Following Vega’s home run, Dan Lyons and Delta Cleary Jr. singled but Lew Ford flied out to end the inning.
The Patriots got two-out singles from Yovan Gonzalez and Scott Kelly in the third, but Leverett retired Aharon Eggleston and Eric Farris on groundouts. Gonzalez and Kelly also singled with two outs in the fifth, but Eggleston lined hard to second baseman Ruben Gotay.
“I was anxious to face Somerset because they had only seen me twice before, in relief,” Leverett said. “I was locating my fastball on the outer half to righties and got ahead of lefties with my curve. I stayed aggressive and stayed locked in on every pitch.”
Especially the last one.