James Lomangino said he could see the fireworks show put on by the Long Island Ducks from his childhood home less than five minutes away from the team’s Central Islip ballpark.
He has a much better view this year from the pitcher’s mound.
Lomangino, who was raised in Ronkonkoma and was a standout for Connetquot High School and St. John’s, joined the Ducks this season as a relief pitcher. The 24-year-old has made three appearances and struck out five, allowing two hits, four walks and no earned runs in 3 1⁄3 innings.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 15 so it’s great to be here,” Lomangino said, adding that he used to try and set a high score on the concourse radar gun meant for fans.
“I played right across the street in Central Islip Little League for eight years. Out of high school this is always where I wanted to be.”
Lomangino was picked by the Colorado Rockies in the 18th round of the 2014 MLB Draft and played in the team’s farm system for two years, most recently with Class-A Asheville.
He said he was released halfway through spring training and made his way to the Ducks after reaching out to his friend and now teammate Bruce Kern, a Stony Brook native and St. John’s graduate.
“It’s been great, the guys are awesome,” Lomangino said. “I’m just challenging myself every day with the hitters and learning from the big league guys we have here.
Mentality-wise, I like to be a bulldog. My fastball is my best pitch, I always rely on that and try to get ahead. After that I hope the slider works and if not, I let them put it in play and trust the defense out there.”
Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Lomangino has been impressive, especially with his fastball that reaches 92 miles per hour.
“He’s got a good live arm and he’s throwing strikes,” Baez said. “That’s what any manager wants. He comes in and he’s aggressive and that’s a good thing. He’s got good command of his fastball, he keeps it down, and he’s got a good curve ball, but his fastball is his go-to pitch.”
Added Baez: “I’m pleasantly surprised. Just keep coming in and doing what he’s doing.”
Week in review
The Ducks have won three of their last five, including two straight wins at home, after opening the season at 0-4.
The Ducks (3-6) beat the New Britain Bees, a new team in the Atlantic League, 5-2, Monday for their first win this season, but went 1-3 in the series with a 2-1 los Tuesday and 5-2 loss Wednesday.
Things were different at home, as the Ducks beat the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, 6-4, Thursday and rallied for a 10-2 win Friday.
“There is urgency even though it’s early in the season,” Lew Ford said before Thursday’s game. “We need to step it up, I think everyone realizes that and we need to win these games this weekend.”
After games Saturday and Sunday against the Blue Crabs, the Ducks host the Lancaster Barnstormers for a three-game series beginning Tuesday.
The Ducks have bought in on starting pitcher Matt Larkins. Acquired late last season, he made only two regular-season starts before the playoffs began. Now, two starts into a new season, the 28-year-old native of Moscow, Idaho, is showing that he no longer is just a playoff rental.
Larkins, pitching on three days’ rest because the Ducks played two doubleheaders last week, went five scoreless innings in a 5-1 loss to the New Britain Bees in front of 4,616 fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip on Sunday. He allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two.
“I felt pretty good,” Larkins said. “I came out and threw strikes well early. I got a little tired at the end, but I came out, felt really good and wanted to give it as much as I could for as long as I could.”
Larkins’ exit was the best thing to happen to the Bees. Conor Bierfeldt launched a two-run home run off Patrick Crider in the sixth. The Bees added three more in the seventh, including a two-run homer by Michael Crouse. Starting pitcher Anthony Marzi pitched five scoreless innings and earned the win for New Britain (4-5).
The Ducks’ Cody Puckett went 2-for-4 and has reached base safely in all nine games he has played this season.
Larkins worked around a leadoff triple in the fourth and a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth to keep the Bees scoreless. Fehlandt Lentini threw out Paul Kronenfeld at the plate with one out in the fifth.
In three games against New Britain, the Ducks scored in only three innings. They hit two balls hard in the fourth, with both finding New Britain gloves. Marc Krauss skied a pitch to deep leftfield that was caught by a running Bierfeldt and Angelo Songco smoked a line drive toward rightfield that was snagged by leaping second baseman Michael Baca. Lentini scored the Ducks’ lone run on a wild pitch in the sixth.
In a league in which winning the first-half title means so much, with the champion earning an automatic bid in the playoffs, the Ducks (4-6) know they have to get going.
“These games are so important,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “You don’t want to say, ‘Oh, we have time.’ No, we don’t have time. If you want to win the first half, the games in April and early May are so important. It’s whoever gets hot out of the gate.”
LI’s Levine debuts. East Meadow native Tyler Levine, who was signed Friday, pitched a scoreless ninth in his Ducks debut. “I came here as a kid with my father, so it means a lot to me,” said Levine, who played at East Meadow and SUNY-Old Westbury.