By Danielle Ranucci
Commack High School
and Ebony Thompson
Baldwin High School
The Long Island Ducks swatted the Sugar Land Skeeters at Bethpage Ballpark in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night. It was a 6-1 victory that enabled the Central Islip team to break the 50 percent mark and lifted the hopes of fans who want to see their team in the playoffs.
“At least we have a chance to go to playoffs,” Adam Espinosa, a fan from East Islip, said. “I have hope.” Espinosa has only been to three games but has supported the team for a few of years.
The Ducks ended the game with a 44-43 record. The next two games in the series will determine their fate for the second half of their season and whether they will be eligible for playoffs.
“If I could give them advice, I’d say to just to keep their heads up and keep moving,” said Taylor Leden of Patchogue.
“There’s always next year, so take it day by day,” said Ranier Barrio of Hicksville, a Yankees fan. Despite his devotion to the award-winning Bronx team, he said that “any time a local team wins, it’s a good thing.”
Michael Polak, director of Media Relations and Broadcasting for the Ducks, said the team was currently two-and-a-half games from leading the Liberty Division in the second half of their 18th season.
“The team has hovered around the 500 mark,” Polak said of the team’s 50 percent win-rate. The Ducks “haven’t been three games over or four games under the halfway mark.”
Despite the mini-struggles of this minor league team, it plays in the Atlantic League, which Polak said boasts the “highest level of play among any independent baseball league in the country.”
The rapidly-changing roster of the team consists of many up-and-coming candidates for the Major League as well as former players. One is starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who spent five years in Major League Baseball — two with the Toronto Blue Jays and three with the Miami Marlins.
The game Tuesday began with a violin rendition of the National Anthem from the kids of the Long Island Ducks Kid Club. The performance demonstrated the Ducks’ commitment to community outreach and may be a reason why the team has lead the league in fan attendance for 14 of 17 seasons, Polak said.
“My son loves coming here, primarily to eat popcorn and play in the bouncy castle,” said Erica Young from East Patchogue, who works for Brookhaven Hospital Medical Center.
The Ducks had a rough start as Travis Scott of the Skeeters had a run batted in against Henderson Alvarez of the Ducks. Alex Burg brought the Ducks to a tie in the bottom of the second inning, scoring a solo home run to left-center field against Skeeter starter Brett Marshall.
In the fourth inning, the Ducks took the lead with a three run, three-hit frame. Marc Krauss and Giovanny Alfonzo put Long Island ahead 4-1, with a two run homer and a sacrifice fly, respectively. Ultimately, Alfredo Simon scored the win with three scoreless innings of relief, giving up one hit and striking out four.
At the end of the game, there were fireworks sponsored by Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center and presented by Fireworks by Grucci
“My kids love the fireworks,” said John Kennedy of Sayville, who attended the game with his two toddlers, Jack and Liam.
Fans left the stadium that night in high spirits. Most were relieved that the playoffs were now a possibility.