(Long Island, NY) The Long Island Ducks had a good first half, but not good enough. Leading the North Division for a good part of the season, they won only three of their last 10 games to bow out of the top spot. Their chief rivals, the Bridgeport Bluefish, finished just as cold by dropping five straight. The Newark Bears were right there to take advantage of both team’s skids and took the First Half pennant by winning 10 of 12.
The Ducks (35-28) finished one game behind the 36-27 Bears and a half game behind the 35-27 Bluefish, who could have clinched the division on the last day of activity before the All-Star break but fell 9-8 to the York Revolution. In the South Division, the Camden Riversharks won the division by two and a half games over the Somerset Patriots.
Long Island DucksIn the Atlantic League, teams qualify for the playoffs by winning either half, or by having the best overall record and the same team wins both halves. So the Ducks have another shot to extend their season, which resumes on Friday with all team’s records 0-0.
The Atlantic League All-Star Game takes place on Wednesday at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium. Nine Ducks, the highest in the league, were selected. Outfielders Ray Navarrete and Kevin Haverbusch (who replaced Carl Everett and Danny Graves), along with pitchers John Halama and Ben Grezlovski will represent Long Island. The Ducks also had infielders P.J. Rose, Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Offerman selected, but they will not participate.
“We’re proud of what our players have been able to accomplish on the field in the first half of the season,” Ducks general manager Michael Pfaff said to reporters. “Each member of the Ducks selected to the All-Star team is an important contributor to our club and is deserving of this honor.”
Rose, the son of baseball’s hit king, led the Ducks with a .351 batting average. He has been a major contributor in his second go- round in Central Islip after spending a year in Bridgeport. Navarrete is hitting .305 and Offerman .300. Everett has been the offensive star of the club, hitting .272 with 12 home runs and 44 runs bated in.
Alfonzo has not been as hot, hitting .267 with only 3 home runs and 34 RBI. Damian Rolls is also a former major leaguer, but is only batting .252 and has committed 10 errors.
On the pitching mound, John Riedling leads the team in wins with a 5-3 record with a 5.59 ERA. Halama is 4-5 with an ERA just over five. Graves, the former Cincinnati Reds closer, is 3-2 with 18 saves and a 2.55 ERA.
The nature of the Atlantic League is to fill your roster at the beginning of the season with talented ex-big leaguers, build up enough of a lead so you can hang on for the first half championship as your club loses pieces to major league organizations. The Ducks have not lost many players, but that is also the result of their players not having big seasons. This can be a plus or a minus, with the heart of the roster still intact. They did have a decent half and look to be contending in the second half. They have been scoring fairly well with 349 runs scored. But their pitching has been the real issue, surrendering 360 runs with a combined 5.21 ERA. If this team has any chance to qualify for the playoffs in the second half, that must improve.