SUGAR LAND — The Sugar Land Skeeters were only one win away from back-to-back Atlantic League championships, but struggles at the plate on Saturday and Sunday kept them from capturing the team’s third league title.
The Long Island Ducks got going early and got key hits late in the game to get an 8-4 win in Game 5 of the Atlantic League Championship Series at Constellation Field on Sunday to win their first ALPB title since 2013. The Ducks also won Game 4 3-2 in 10 innings on Saturday to force the deciding game on Sunday.
The Ducks jumped on Sugar Land starting pitcher Mike Hauschild with a run in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk, but the Skeeters responded in the second inning as designated hitter Denis Phipps blasted a leadoff home run to right-center field to tie the game.
Long Island again got to Hauschild in the third, as Deibinson Romero hit a two-run single. The Ducks the got two more runs in the fifth on an RBI single by Hector Sanchez, followed by a sacrifice fly by Romero to increase the lead to 5-1.
Sugar Land got a run in the seventh on a sac fly by Cody Stanley, scoring Zach Borenstein. But the Ducks responded with a run on a sac fly in the eighth inning.
The Skeeters tried to get a rally going in the bottom of the eighth inning, as runners were on second and third with one out. Albert Cordero beat out a double play attempt that allowed Rico Noel to score, and a wild pitch brought home Anthony Giansanti. But Bornestein struck out to end the threat.
Long Island got the final blow as Romeno hit a two-run home run in the ninth to put the game away.
Ducks starter Vin Mazzaro (3-0) earned the win, tossing six and one-third innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks while striking out three. Hauschild (0-3) suffered the loss, surrendering five runs on seven hits and five walks over four and one-third innings with two strikeouts.
“It was tough, but credit to Mazzaro, he did a good job on the mound,” said Skeeters left-fielder Wynton Bernard, who had a triple in the game. “We wanted to put some stuff together, but we got unlucky, and that’s baseball.”
Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia was not in the Sugar Land dugout on Sunday.
He was ejected from Saturday’s game after arguing with an umpire on a close play at first base in the seventh inning.
The Skeeters had no comment on Incaviglia’s status for Sunday’s game.
On Saturday, Sugar Land scored two runs in the first inning as Phipps hit a two-run triple that scored Noel and Bernard. But the Skeeters didn’t score again as the Ducks got a run in second and another in the sixth to tie the game, then won it in the 10th on a sac fly by Romero.
Sugar Land took an early 5-0 lead in Game 3 on Friday with a five-run inning, with Phipps hitting a two-run single. The Skeeters had a 6-0 lead, but Long Island scored a pair of runs in the seventh and eighth innings to cut the lead to two runs. Borenstein scored on a wild pitch in the eighth inning as insurance in a 7-5 win.
The Skeeters were appearing in their second straight Atlantic League Championship Series and third in the last four seasons, after defeating the Ducks to win the Atlantic League Championship in both the 2016 and 2018 seasons. The Skeeters were appearing in their fourth Atlantic League Championship Series in their eighth season as a franchise.
Sugar Land was able to reach the Atlantic League Championship Series despite having a league-high and franchise-record 16 contracts purchased from their roster by outside professional baseball organizations, including 13 from Major League Baseball organizations. Over the last two seasons, there have been 25 contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations from the Skeeters roster, which leads all independent league baseball teams.
“It tells us something about our players and our staff and our coaches that we put together a good season,” Bernard said. “I’m happy with what we did this season. Obviously we wanted to win a championship, but we can still be satisfied that we went all the way.”