While one of the stated goals of the Atlantic League is to get players noticed by a major-league organization, sometimes being too successful in this regard can lead to issues on the home front.
Those problems landed in the duck pond Sunday afternoon.
After opening-day catcher Wilkin Castillo had his contract purchased by the Yankees on May 24, the Ducks were effectively left with one catcher — Ramon Cabrera. After Cabrera left with groin tightness following the third inning of the Ducks 4-3 loss to the Lancaster Barnstormers at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, they were forced to bring in Bellmore native Keith Ezersky, who entered the afternoon with one at-bat this season and is primarily the team’s bullpen catcher.
The inexperience eventually came back to the bite the Ducks, who blew a 3-0 eighth-inning lead.
The Barnstormers scored all four of their runs in the eighth, erasing six shutout innings from Ducks starting pitcher Bennett Parry. Barnstormers leftfielder Trayvon Robinson scored the winning run after Ezersky’s third passed ball of the inning.
“As a catcher, when you set up outside, and they go inside, it’s hard to get every one,” Ezersky said. “My job is to do the best that I can. It did tip off my glove once or twice.”
Ducks manager Kevin Baez said he was unsure of the severity of Cabrera’s injury, with more expected to be known Sunday night or early Monday. But catching relief could be close for the Ducks, with Audie Afenir, who suffered a finger injury on May 3, expected to rejoin the team early this week, Baez said.
“He was actually supposed to be ready today,” Baez said. “He had a little bit of a setback, but he should be ready any day now . . . That’s why we were waiting it out [with only one regular catcher].”
Ducks reliever Ashur Tolliver took the loss after allowing all four Lancaster runs (three earned) in a third of an inning. Barnstormers reliever Matt Marksberry pitched a scoreless seventh and earned the win for Lancaster (30-15).
Jordany Valdespin hit into a double play with a runner on third base to end the eighth inning, squandering a chance for the Ducks (25-21) to tie it. The Ducks left 11 runners on base.
Parry was excellent again for the Ducks. The lefty allowed only three hits, struck out six and walked three in six innings. It was the seventh consecutive start that Parry has allowed two runs or less, lowering his ERA to 1.85.
The Ducks jumped on Lancaster with three runs in the third inning. Travis Snider’s RBI double drove in Jordany Valdespin and Cabrera, in his final at-bat before the injury, knocked a double that drove in Snider and David Washington.
Lancaster starting pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo allowed three runs, eight hits, struck out one and walked two in six innings.
The loss put the Ducks two games behind the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division standings with 17 games left in the first half. The winner of the first half receives and automatic berth in the playoffs.