Ducks Shot Down In Home Opener, Then Win Next Two
Inconsistent would probably be the best way to describe these first eight games of the Long Island Ducks' 2006 season. Coming into this week having won their first three on the schedule, the Ducks followed that up by losing three in a row, including a 12-2 blowout in their own h o m e o p e n e r this past F r i d a y, before rebounding to take the final two over the weeke n d . Even though it is still very early in the season, the mixed results up to this point makes it anyone's guess as to which team will show up tonight when the Ducks resume play after off-days on Monday and Tuesday.
The team opened the past week with two close defeats at the hands of the first-place Bluefish on Wednesday and Thursday in Bridgeport, before returning to Citibank Park the next night for their first game in front of the hometown fans. Their opponent was the same Riversharks team they had just swept in a series the previous weekend in Camden, but this night would prove to be very different.
Ducks starting pitcher Ryan Jensen looked steady through two innings but in the third everything fell apart. Camden exploded for six runs on five hits during the inning, which included back-to-back home runs by L.J. Biernbaum and John Pachot to blow the game wide open. After Jensen was finally able to get out of the inning, the former San Francisco Giant received a noticeably loud chorus of boos from the opening night sellout crowd as he walked back to the dugout. It did not get much better from there for the Ducks as Andrew Lorraine replaced Jensen and proceeded to give up four more runs over the next twoplus innings. This sent many of the disappointed fans on their way to the parking lot much earlier than they would have expected. "They [Camden] just kept hitting pitches I wasn't executing," said Jensen, "It's dispiriting because I wanted to pitch a good game for the fans and I was not able to." When asked about the boos from the home crowd, Jensen responded "I was not surprised at all; they came here to see a win tonight and we were down 6-0 in the third inning so I don't blame them."
The Ducks did have two chances i n particular to make a game out of it when they loaded the bases in the third and fifth innings but were unable to pick up a single run. The first time, Bucky Jacobsen hit the ball hard to the left of second base but a strong defensive play and a close call on the force-out at second got Camden out of the inning. It also got Ducks manager Don McCormack running out on to the field to confront the umpire. "I just disagreed with the call that he made but he kept saying no," McCormack stated after the game, "That could have changed the momentum but there is nothing you can do." The second opportunity to cut into the lead came up empty when Massapequa native Kevin Haverbush flied out. From there, the Ducks would record only three hits over the final four innings ending any possibility of a comeback. "Camden was aggressive tonight and they hit us hard," McCormack said, "but there is another one tomorrow and we just need to regroup."
Before the game, the Ducks announced that they had activated Erick Almonte and had also signed Elvis Pena. The 28-year-old Almonte saw some action at the major league level with the Yankees in 2001 and 2003 and spent most of last season playing in Japan. Pena will begin his second stint with the Ducks after being named to the Atlantic League All-Star team back in 2003. That year Pena set single-season Ducks records for most at-bats, runs, hits and stolen bases. "Elvis is one of those guys who as an opponent you can't overlook," says Ducks general manager Michael Hirsch. "He's a quick guy who we can put in either the infield or outfield. His versatility and speed is a great addition to our club."
This news would become even more significant when starting shortstop Tony Schrager left Friday night's game after fielding a hard line drive in the fourth inning. He is listed as day-to-day with a wrist contusion. "We will be alright now with Almonte here and Pena here," says Don McCormack. "We will get a regular routine going with the same guys playing everyday which will make us dangerous. I think we will be a force to contend with."
At least for the next two days, McCormack's words seemed prophetic as the new additions fit nicely into the lineup and helped contribute to Ducks wins on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, by the scores of 4-2 and 7-3 respectively. This week the Ducks have five more home games before heading out on the road again. The Atlantic City Surf visit Long Island for games on Wednesday and Thursday before the Ducks welcome the Road Warriors back into the Atlantic League with a three game set at Citibank Park over the weekend. Tickets for these games can be purchased either by stopping at the box office, logging on to www.liducks.com, or by calling 631-940-TIXX. EXTRA INNINGS: To make room on the roster for Pena and Almonte, the Ducks released Nick Ortiz who had been off to a very strong start for Long Island. Ortiz was assigned to the Road Warriors and will return to Citibank Park this weekend as an opponent. The Ducks honored their long-time outfielder Justin Davies before last Saturday's game by presenting him with his number-4 jersey in an engraved plaque. The fan-favorite, who recently announced his retirement during spring training, was also in the press box the previous night to watch his former teammates play. The 29-year-old Davies has spent almost all of his life in West Babylon but will soon be moving with his family to North Carolina in order to pursue a career as a police officer.