In defense of the 2018 Atlantic League championship, the Sugar Land Skeeters issued the challenge to “come and take it!”
The Long Island Ducks did just that.
After three straight years of championship series futility, the Ducks took down the Skeeters Sunday night, coming back after being down 2-1 in the best-of-five championship series.
“It was a great series,” said Ducks manager Wally Backman. “I think that both Sugar Land and us showed that we were the best two teams in the league consistently all year long and it was a good series, it was a fight.
“They tried to come back in this game. It’s not easy to beat them in their own ballpark, but we got really quality pitching from our starters. That’s really why we won was the quality pitching from our starters and timely hitting,” he said.
Sugar Land won the Atlantic League championships in 2016 and 2018 by beating the Ducks. In 2017, the York Revolution won the championship over Long Island.
The lead in the championship series went back and forth. The Ducks won the first game in Long Island with the Skeeters taking the second. The series then moved to Constellation Field, where Sugar Land took Game 3 for a 2-1 lead. On Saturday, the Skeeters held and early lead, but the Ducks tied it up and won 3-2 in 10 innings.
Late in the game, manager Pete Incaviglia aggressively argued a call at first base and was ejected with a suspension for Game 5. Player-pitching coach Dan Runzler – who pitched in relief in Game 4 – took the managing duties for the final game. The Ducks scored first and never looked back as they earned their victory dance 8-4.
“They had some good pitches, we battled, we never gave up, we fought to the end,” Runzler said. “Tip our hat to Long Island, they beat us tonight and beat us in the series, but I wouldn’t go to battle with anyone other than this dugout. I was proud of the way we conducted ourselves and we were never out of it the whole way. We battled all night and, like I said, you can’t win them all. It stings a little bit, but like I said, I’m proud to go to battle with these guys.”
Team captain Anthony Giansanti sat stoically in the Skeeters dugout while the Ducks celebrated.
“They played well; they answered the cap, they capitalized where we didn’t. They had some timely hitting, it’s just one of those things, man,” he said. “In a game like this or a series like this it’s whoever makes the least mistakes. They came out the last two nights and capitalized on our mistakes. We capitalized on theirs as well as we could, and congrats to Long Island. Tough, tough loss. It’s one of those things. We played hard and I’m proud of the guys.”
Outfielder Zach Borenstein was dejected as he made his way toward the clubhouse.
“It’s tough, you know, being up in the series 2-1, we’ve been playing good all postseason and yesterday was a game that got away from us – very winnable game, we had a lot of situations where we didn’t capitalize where we normally would have. Anything happens in Game 5, we battled back, we fought, but it just wasn’t our night,” he said.
Atlantic League President Rick White made the presentation of the trophy to the Ducks after the game. He commented afterward that the series featured the two best teams in the league.
“Both clubs lost to transfer over 15 players apiece. Despite that they were incredibly competitive throughout the season,” he said. “All due respect is owed to the skippers of the respective squads – Pete Incaviglia with the Sugar Land Skeeters and Wally Backman with the Long Island Ducks. I think this series is actually exciting. It could have gone either way all the way up until tonight and even tonight, while the Ducks were ahead most of the evening, it was still very competitive and until the last out one had hope, so overall you can’t be any happier with it.”
Atlantic League Championship Series
Ducks 7, Skeeters 5
Skeeters 7, Ducks 0
Skeeters 7, Ducks 5
Ducks 3, Skeeters 2
Ducks 8, Skeeters 4