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Former Blue Crabs skipper’s team leads Long Island in Atlantic League title series


Staff writer

A day after they were ousted from the postseason in heartbreaking fashion of a dramatic Game 5 in the Liberty Division Championship Series, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn and one of his top pitchers, Ben Moore, were resolute in predicting the best-of-five Atlantic League Championship Series.

They did not pick the Long Island team that had just beaten them.

Rather, they were decidedly confident that regular season-best Lancaster would cruise to the league crown in the series. And their prediction was hardly based solely on sentimental value with former Blue Crabs manager Butch Hobson, now in his second year as the Lancaster skipper.

“I think Long Island has no shot,” Moore said despite being the hard-luck losing pitcher twice to the New Yorkers in the divisional series, throwing well enough to win both outings. “Lancaster can score eight runs a game at home. They’re really good at playing to their park.”

He then added had of his Blue Crabs’ chances versus Lancaster had they not fallen short by a run in Sunday’s Game 5 to Long Island, “Yeah, [we would’ve had a better shot in the league championship series]. We played Lancaster so much toward the end of the season. We know them.”

Well, Lancaster did not put up eight runs in Game 1 at home Wednesday to kickstart the league championship series. But a handful of runs was all the Barnstormers needed with league Pitcher-of-the-Year favorite Dwayne Pollok on the mound, downing Long Island in a 5-1 outcome.

Game 2 was played Thursday in Lancaster, which finished too late for inclusion into this edition. Games 3 through 5, the latter two if necessary, will be hosted by Long Island tonight through Sunday.

Game 1 was much closer than the final score may suggest.

Like it did in eliminating the favored Blue Crabs in their divisional series, starting pitching gave the Ducks a golden opportunity to pull a major upset of Lancaster, which set the league record with 88 wins during the regular season while boasting the circuit’s top offense and pitching staff.

When Long Island southpaw starter Randy Keisler exited the mound with two outs in the seventh, Lancaster was clinging to a 2-1 lead — exactly the type of low-scoring game the Ducks thrived in against the Blue Crabs in the divisional series.

Keisler was the Game 1 winning pitcher for Long Island in Southern Maryland to set the impressive tone on the mound for the Ducks in that series.

But Long Island reliever Jeremy Hill could not get the final out of Lancaster in the seventh before allowing the first four batters he faced to reach.

The big blow came from Lancaster slugger Ryan Harvey, who belted a three-run home run to right-center on a 1-ball, 2-strike pitch in the seventh off Hill after the Long Island reliever surrendered a single and walk to Tommy Everidge and Fehlandt Lentini, respectively, upon entering the game.

The Harvey yard shot was the backbreaker of Long Island.

Lancaster’s Travis Denker followed Harvey with a single before Hill induced a lineout to second base to get out of the inning.

Lancaster grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second, then extended its cushion to 2-0 over Lancaster in the sixth on a homer by former Blue Crabs player Kody Kirkland.

“That was a big home run from Kody there,” Hobson said to Kirkland also played a role in the team’s first run with a sacrifice bunt. “It was nice to see [Kirkland’s homer] after all the back stuff.”

Kirkland, hobbled by a back problem for much of the season, missed the clinching Game 3 for Lancaster in the Freedom Division Championship Series weep of York.

Pollok exited the contest following six shutout innings of work in notching the win, yielding just four hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Long Island then capitalized a bit on the Lancaster bullpen, cutting its deficit in half to 2-1 in the seventh by greeting reliever Beau Vaughan with a two-out double from Dan Lyons and an RBI single from Kraig Binick.

Hobson then wasted no time in replacing Vaughan with Josh Drew on the mound. After another Long Island single that put runners on first and second, Drew induced a groundball out off the bat of Ray Navarrete to end the Long Island threat.

Each team left 10 runners on base, Lancaster leaving them full in the first and second. Though Lancaster was only able to plate one run between both those two promising frames, Keisler’s pitch count soared from laboring through the threats.

The Long Island starter threw 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings, pitching well enough to win with two runs allowed — one earned — on seven hits with four strikeouts and three walks.

Atlantic League Championship Series Game 1


Lancaster 5, Long Island 1

Long Island 000 000 100 1 9 1

Lancaster 010 001 30x 5 11 1

WP Pollok (2-0), LP Keisler (1-1)

Extra-base hits: 2B Brodin (LI, 3), Nelson (LI, 2), Lyons (LI, 2), Lentini 2 (L, 4), Denker (L, 2); HR Harvey (L, 2), Kirkland (L, 1)

(Lancaster leads series, 1-0)