2006-07-13 / Columnists

Fowl Ball! Weekly report on the DUCKS

An Old Friend Returns, Helps Ducks Clinch Playoffs in Dramatic Fashion
by Jason Eisenberg

He can quite literally be called the "pulse" of the Long Island Ducks. There is no doubting the special bond that exists between the team and starting pitcher Bill Pulsipher, because every time the former-Met is around good things start to happen.

"Bill always likes to make us aware when he is back in town after pitching somewhere else," says Ducks manager Don McCormack, "and considering his past history with us, it isn't too tough of a decision to make."

Two years ago, Pulsipher joined the Ducks for the first time and played most of the season on Long Island helping the team win the first-half division title and qualify for the playoffs for the first time. He then proceeded to pitch two games in the postseason, both wins, including the game which clinched the Ducks the 2004 Atlantic League championship. Last season, the Ducks struggled through a poor first half and then were involved in a close race with Nashua for the second-half division lead. Pulsipher had spent the season within the St. Louis Cardinals organization up to that point, but as soon as he was available he rejoined the Ducks for the last month of the season. Long Island went on to win the division and Pulsipher was on the mound for the team's only win of the 2005 playoffs.

Fast forward back to the current season, where the Ducks have gone through a mostly up and down first half, but really came on strong in the last few weeks to put themselves in contention. However, there was one final piece that was not yet in place: Bill Pulsipher. That changed last week when the 33-year-old resident of West Babylon came back to Long Island for this third stint with the team. "Bill has been nothing but a positive influence on our ball club while he's pitched for us," Ducks owner Frank Boulton said last week, "He has been instrumental in both of our runs to the postseason and we to come back and play here," Pulsipher says, "I pride myself on always wanting to pitch in big situations, and with the Ducks in a playoff race I will do whatever I can to help this team win some ballgames." Pulsipher went out that night and certainly backed up his words by pitching seven shutout innings and allowed only three hits in a 4-0 Long Island win.

The Ducks would win their next three games, but Bridgeport matched that, setting up a do-or-die situation for Long Island on Monday night. As a result of Bridgeport holding the tiebreaker for head-to-head results, the Ducks needed to win the game, which was actually a makeup from a previous rainout, in order to claim the division title. All week Ducks manager Don McCormack showed little concern about the Bluefish holding the tiebreak advantage, repeatedly saying, "It doesn't matter because we are going to win all the rest of our games."

However, there had to be some concern in the Long Island dugout as the team trailed by a run heading into the bottom of the sixth inning in this must win game. Pulsipher, pitching on three days rest, was solid again, striking out eight Atlantic City batters in seven innings while allowing just four runs on seven hits. On this night though, there was a different hero who stepped up and fittingly, it was outfielder Kevin Haverbusch. Haverbusch has struggled for most of the first half, but none of that really mattered anymore once the Massapequa that his players would still pull it off and was glad to see that Haverbusch was the one to do it. "Kevin has struggled a bit for most of this half, so this hit was big for him," says McCormack, "The wind might have helped out some, but still, this certainly ranks up there as one of the biggest moments in Ducks history."

As the first half comes to a close with the Ducks knowing they have already qualified for the playoffs, there are two things in particular that McCormack and his team should take even more satisfaction from. First, the team has had to overcome an extraordinary amount of injuries and roster moves throughout this half of the season, yet watching the team celebrate in the locker room after the game, one would think these guys have been playing together for years. Finally, the Ducks won 12 of their last 13 games while Bridgeport was almost as good during the same stretch so the team certainly earned this division title. Flocking to the All-Star Game

The Ducks will be well represented at the ninth annual Atlantic League All Star Game. Seven Long Island players were selected to the North Division team by a voting panel consisting of general managers, coaching staffs, media members and fans. The players headed to Bridgeport for Wednesday night's game include First Baseman Bucky Jacobsen, Second Baseman Carlos Hernandez, Third Baseman Erick Almonte, Shortstop Tony Schrager, Outfielder Mel Stocker, and pitchers Pat Ahearne and Pat Mahomes.

"We are excited to be sending seven of our players over to Bridgeport including our entire infield," says Ducks general manager Michael Hirsch. "These guys have been exciting to watch over the season's first half. We expect them to do the same for all of the fans in attendance on July 12th."

Check back next week for full coverage of the AllStar events, including the Home Run Derby scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., followed by the game itself, which pits the North Division and South Division all-stars against each other in a battle for bragging rights. It is not yet known which Ducks will participate in the Home Run contest but Bucky Jacobsen, who leads the entire league with 13 long balls, would seem to be a likely candidate. anticipate him doing the same in our current pennant chase." Believe it or not, two starts by Pulsipher, two victories, and the Ducks are first-half division champions headed for their third straight appearance in the playoffs.

Pulsipher made his first start back with the team last Thursday night after just signing earlier that same day. A few members of the Ducks' pitching staff were nursing injuries so someone was needed to take the ball and Pulsipher was more than willing. "It is always a special feeling for me native came to the plate with two runners on and proceeded to hit a high fly ball that carried with the wind over the left field wall for a three-run home run. After circling the bases, Haverbusch crossed home plate as the eventual winning run in a 9-4 Ducks victory "Please God get out, that's all I was thinking," Haverbusch said after the game, "When you get in a situation like this you just want to deliver, and thankfully I did."

Ducks manager Don McCormack admitted to being a little nervous during most of the game but he believed

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