Ducks Lose Three Straight

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South Oakland lost to the Jays on Friday, and lost two to the previously last place Piranhas on Sunday. Sunday’s first loss was a continued game that was suspended earlier this season. The second game was a rescheduled rainout. The Ducks record is now 5-8.

The Ducks finish their season series with East Pittsburgh tonight, 8:30 pm at Springview Field.

Quack.

Ducks Win Fourth Straight, Even Record at 5-5

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South Oakland 10, Keystone Oaks 3

Box Score

South Oakland erased a 3-2 fourth-inning deficit, reeling off 8 unanswered runs, to defeat Keystone Oaks (5-7) in Spring Hill last night.

In his first start as a Duck, starting pitcher Casen Wolinski (W, 1-0) pitched 6 innings, scattering 7 hits, and striking out 8. Also making his Ducks debut, relief pitcher Luke Hudic pitched a scoreless seventh. South Oakland did not allow an earned run. The defense overcame a few early miscues and steadied itself late. Keystone Oaks pitchers hit six Ducks batters including TJ Morgan who lined a ball off the top of the fence for a long RBI single to help put the game out of reach.

Last night’s win was the Ducks fourth straight; the Ducks beat first place Cranberry on Sunday, after a home and home sweep of D2 earlier in the week.

Offensive Performances of Note:

  • Alex Swauger: 3-for-3, 2 RBI
  • Tom Pulice: 3-4, 3 RBI
  • Mark Lombardi: 1-for-3, HBP, 2 RBI
  • Dillon Williams: 1-for-4 2B, R
  • Jimmy Murray: 2-for-2, RBI, SB, R
  • Ben Gwin: 0-for-0, 2 HBP, SB, 2R

South Oakland plays next against the Jays, Friday, 8:30 pm at Herschel Park.

Quack

Ducks Win. South Oakland 8, D2 5

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Randy Patton (W, 3-2) scattered 5 hits over five innings, and the Ducks offense recorded 13 hits as South Oakland won their second straight over Pittsburgh D2. James Fago recorded the two-inning save (1).

The Ducks improved to 3-5 on the season; D2 fell to 3-6 with the loss.

The Ducks play next vs the South Hills Devils (5-6), Tuesday night, 8:30 pm at Springview Field.

Quack

South Oakland Staff in Shambles as Ducks Scuffle to 2-5 Start

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Every year, at the beginning of the season, I think about what needs to go right for us to win a title. Some years, we just needed to stay healthy. Others we’ve needed some breaks. Ideally, most of what needs to happen is within in our control. I don’t think a season without a championship is a lost season or that we can’t have a successful year without winning a title. There are too many variables, both within the game and outside of it. Vacations, injuries, lack of commitment, players moving, players with tragedies in their families – marriages, kids, and aging. I think we’ve had a great run since 2014, despite falling short of winning a third title.

However, I do think a season where we have no chance of winning most of our games, or even competing in those games, is a lost season. When the list of things we need to go right to win a title becomes a ridiculous wish list of hypotheticals, and the odds dip to say, single digit probabilities, it’s tough. Then we become a slow pitch softball team that is just in it for the social aspect and the post game beers, which is fine if that’s all you want out of your summer league team. But I don’t have many years left, and I want to win. I know most of us do.

The way to eliminate most of the variables is to have three or four solid starting pitchers who are committed and reliable. Really you just need strike throwers and an ace. It helps to have one guy who can shut teams down and win a game when your best players are on vacation or taking their kids to camp or whatever. Cranberry has that this season, the Grizzlies had that last season, the Oilers did, the Devils, and Bandidos in the last few championships. D2 also has the arms, and they have made two consecutive finals appearances. So that’s how we try to construct our roster.

Before this season, we lost six pitchers: three starters, and three relievers. To replace them we had dozens of leads on guys who told someone on our team at some point they’d come pitch. We figured if two of them panned out, we’d be ok. So far none of them have panned out. This includes a few guys we brought on, or had in house, who we thought would pitch and can’t or won’t.

What we have now is one solid starter who basically has to throw seven innings a game, and a good bullpen that is being forced into pitching more innings than they should have to pitch. We don’t even have a rotation. Most of these issues have been out of our control. Everyone has done all they can to find people who can give us innings. We can’t make people show up. We can’t make people be more upfront about their commitment level, desire to play, or willingness to pitch.

It’s important to have a clear, honest assessment of the team. As we are currently constructed, we need everything to go right to win games Randy doesn’t start, and we need the other team to make mistakes. When he does start, we need most of our starters there to play good defense so we don’t waste his innings.

We have played two solid games this year and won them. But in the other games, we’ve run out of pitchers, or had luck go against us in the form of umpires, bad hops etc. The bad hops even out over the course of a season, but when we get bounces in games we’re losing by 7 runs anyway, it doesn’t really help.

It’s way too early to lose hope. That shit is contagious. We don’t do well so people don’t show up, and people don’t show up so we don’t do well. It can spiral quick. We have commitments from three, good pitchers not on our roster to play for us this season, and one guy who I vouch for as committed but has only been available in games that have been rained out. So our hope is to get these guys on board and playoff eligible. If we can do that, we’ll have a solid rotation in place for the stretch run and the playoffs. But until they’re paid and registered, it’s up in the air. We have until the roster deadline to figure something out. I’m hopeful we will, and that we don’t have to write this season off.

South Oakland plays next on Sunday, 9:30 am vs D2. We have a Sunday lineup, but maybe we’ll get the breaks and we can sneak one.

Quack.

Ducks Win: South Oakland 5, Sheraden 4

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The Ducks overcame messy field conditions and an early 2-run deficit to beat the Jays 5-4 on opening day. Randy Patton (W, 1-0) threw a complete game and the Ducks scored 3 runs in the sixth in the comeback win.

The rebooted Jays missed a great opportunity to wear these gems

Dillon Williams and TJ Morgan hit doubles for South Oakland. Tom Pulice had two hits in the victory.

South Oakland plays next on 5/3 vs East Pittsburgh at Springview Field, 8:30pm

Season Preview

As it always seems to, the NABA season arrived out of nowhere. The off-season was eventful and also very dull. Days felt like weeks, but the months flew by.

South Oakland returns the bulk of its roster from last season. We’ve also added three former Ducks who took hiatuses of varying lengths, another Black Sox all-time great, and some pitchers who are hopefully good and ready to give us innings.

We need a number two starter to emerge. If one does, we should be right there at the end of the season. If not, we will need to win a bunch of high scoring games when Randy isn’t starting. This is familiar territory for us.

This will be the Ducks 19th season. It is hard to keep a team together for a long time. It’s also hard to find pitching. I think there is a correlation.

Speaking of pitching

I’d like to thank the Blackstones and Billy for their service as they re-embark on their Jays journey. They were good teammates. May the Jays stay together for 20 years and their dugout be a picture of serenity.

League Round-Up

The Grizzlies moved up to AAA and will renew their rivalry with the Oilers. Senators dropped down to A. Sheraden and Keystone Oaks will replace Bauerstown and the Senators in AA. The Piranhas return for their second season.

I will try to have a semi-regular realignment watch again despite no single A teams moving up

The new teams are young, so they likely will avoid some of the attendance problems and joint inflammation issues facing many AA teams.

South Hills and Cranberry are the AA Ships of Theseus. Both teams saw significant roster turnover.

The Bandidos look poised to start 1-7 before winning 16 straight to finish out the regular season. Hopefully we get them early.

The Eagles will probably take 2 of 3 from us no matter where they finish in the standings.

D2 will sandbag all season and then make a deep run in the playoffs. They always have great pitching depth, and they already started the season with a questionable rainout.

Look for Devils manager and NABA legend, Rich Rodi to post his betting odds/power rankings on the blog this summer. A good blogger knows when to delegate.

Good luck to all, and thanks for reading. Double A should be wide open this year. I bet everyone finishes exactly .500.

Quack

Team Awards

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The Fact that I am writing the team awards without at least a championship appearance is tough, if not just down right sad. I felt like we had the team this year to actually compete and make a deep run, but it felt like the only time that pitching and hitting showed up in the same game was the season opener. It was a tough year overall, one that I will highlight throughout this post.

Team MVP

Stef Blackstone (SS, 2B, CL)

Stef was undoubtedly our MVP for the year, although arguments could easily be made of his competitive advantage, being young and in college, I don’t think we could count those. Stef was one of the best players in the league when he was with the Jays, and we were lucky enough this year to have him join up with other former Jays (Brandon, Billy, and Coach Nolan ha.) Stef led the team in batting average, hits, stolen bases, and triples. If we played in a league where pitchers actually cared about guys stealing bases, it would have opened up even more opportunities for our offense to score runs. Not only was Stef our leadoff hitter he anchored us down in the middle infield. We lost our second baseman early this year, and our shortstop had multiple military commitments. If everything goes right, Stef would have been our super utility guy, startiung every game, freeing up multiple guys to pitch and giving rest to some of our older team members. Either way, I am sure things would be the same. Stef stepped up and helped us out monumentally, playing both positions without missing a beat, making plays that most normal PGH NABA AA guys wouldn’t. Even on the rare occasion that Stef booted a ball his arm strength would make up for it and it would be an out. When not pitching, Stef stepped up and shut teams down on the mound. It was truly fun to watch.

Pitcher of the Year

Brandon Blackstone SP

Brandon was once again our anchor this year. Starting off strong with what the MLB would label a ‘notable achievement,’ a shortened No hitter. Brandon pitched most of this year at less than a hundred percent, and it didn’t show. He went out there and continuously gave us a chance to win. Brandon led the team in appearances, innings, wins, shutouts, and ERA. Not only was Brandon productive, he always wanted the ball, no matter the situation. As a manager that is a relief to have in your back pocket, a guy who no matter what is going to be competitive and give you a chance to win. After the first couple weeks of the season I thought I would have a tough decision between three horses when it came time to decide who our Pitcher of the year would be, but when Billy went down, Brandon stepped up and powered us to the playoffs. “Who are you guys throwing,” was a question that we would run into a lot at the beginning of the year, but it quickly turned to the random surprised comment, “Brandon isn’t starting?” Without B, I don’t know where we end up this year. I definitely don’t think we get a chance in the Semi finals, Brandon shut down the Devils when our bats fell asleep, and it was a fun game to catch. It was truly one of those games where I felt like whatever I thought out, that pitch would be executed. I couldn’t have asked for better. Honestly it was one of those seasons.

Offensive Player of the Year

T.J. Morgan (OF, DH)

To me TJ is the Nelson Cruz of PGH NABA, seemingly ageless, and one of the toughest outs in the league. TJ was the Left hook of our “one two” punch at the top of the lineup this year. Not surprisingly, once that change was made, we started rolling to wins, and eventually rolling to the Four Spot in the regular season. Hitting behind the smooth swing, and watching him just hit rockets really made it easy to be a three hole hitter. TJ was running right with Stef in the batting average conversation right up until the last week of the season, when it seemed like the two of us could not hit water if we fell out of a boat, not saying that TJ wasn’t making great contact, he was, but the baseball Gods decided that nothing was to fall. I also think TJ has a bout 3 or 4 homeruns if we played every game at the Pond. TJ was the heart of our offense, and without a doubt one of the Pillars of the Duck soul. Driving long distances to shit on baseballs and giving us a chance to win (and help me to 2nd in the league RBI race) are just more reasons that TJ earns this award. I could say more, but its all been said before.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kenny Rayl (3B)

Kenny was, in my opinion the best third baseman in the league this year. Anything that was hit down that way, I felt like he had a chance get it, no matter the shortstop, the left side of this infield was something I knew that I didn’t have to worry about. I hear some jabroni make a comment this year that was something like “he’s only solid if you hit it at him,” then two plays later Kenny made some diving play that led to someone else on that team saying “it looks like we just shouldn’t hit it to third base,” and all I could do was laugh. Having Ken at the hot corner was one of the saving graces of the Ducks this year, and the infield definitely didn’t feel right if he was out.

Ducks New guy of the year

Ben Doak (OF, P 1b)

Doak was as solid of an addition as it gets, coming in a quarter of the way through the season and maybe missing one game. Doak added some lefty power to an already lefty heavy order. Hitting a definite Home run at spring hill that was called a double (it hit the second of two fences by the batting cage,) and then a little league homer that I would have labeled an actual homerun had I known the other manager a little better. Doak was not only solid at the plate, he was a solid fourth outfielder, pitcher, and heir apparent to Clark at first base. I truly cannot believe that we got so lucky with two straight slugging first baseman. Oh, did I mention that he pitches, pairing what seems like 72 different pitches with an uncanny pick off move from the left side is something that the Ducks have not had since I came on in 2017. Doak is a welcomed addition to the team, and hopefully a corner stone for years to come.

This season was tough, who knows where we stand if 2/3s of our weekend games weren’t in the first month of the season. If Billy doesn’t get hurt, Randy’s schedule doesn’t limit him to weekends, and some other things that are out of our control don’t happen. It was said in another article that I made different mistake than I did last year, which is true, some of them were the opposite of the mistakes I made in the previous year, and maybe I will find a healthy medium in here somewhere. I can’t help but blame myself for us falling short, attendance wasn’t great this year, but not only did I manage poorly at times, I had my worst year at the plate since like, 3rd grade. Its insanely frustrating. I think as a team we need to do more baseball things, while I was watching the Olympic game between Japan and the US this morning I felt like I was watching a Ducks game. Starting extras with guys on first and second, the US team swung away and tried to make the big play, then in the bottom half Japan came up, bunted the two men over and then hit a single to win, you know, baseball things. We don’t do them, but really we don’t need to in the regular season, we are a solid club, a lot of talent, and in my honest opinion the second best team in this division, if it wasn’t for age and attendance I think we would be 1. This team was my favorite I have played on in the last ten years, and second best ever to a team I played on with fellow Duck Steve aka Goose when we were youngsters.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and honestly that factors in for this year, I am not saying we would have made it to the championship, but it would have been an easier road if we would have just played to lose our last couple regular season games. Instead, I thought we could win out, and D2, who is now in the championship, put a halt on us getting the third seed. Its unfortunate, we had the tools this year to smoke the field, but things didn’t plan out. I’ve been playing baseball for 23 years now, and have yet to win a championship. Hopefully, next year is the year.

Quack.

Ducks Lose. Season Over: Grizzlies 14, South Oakland 7

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South Oakland allowed three runs in the top of the first, and fell behind 11-1 before mounting a late rally that fell short. The Grizzlies advance to play the winner of the Cranberry and D2 series. This is the third time in four years the Grizzlies eliminated the Ducks in the post season.

Bauerstown are worthy finalists. Joe did a great job adding pieces to an already good team during their hiatus, and they were ready to play every game. I wish them luck in the finals and in AAA next season. They will undoubtedly get moved up after going 19-3-1, even if they get stunned in the finals.

I will add them to the realignment watch with the other Bauerstown team that will likely move up and take their place next season, which means we will still have to play at that field with no shade in the July heat.

I’m frustrated we couldn’t put a complete performance together in either game, and force a game 3. Maybe we sneak a game if Billy isn’t hurt, and put the pressure back on them in game 3. The league could have re-seeded for the semis, and put this off for a week if we got through Cranberry in a series. It doesn’t matter. Bauerstown was a buzzsaw this year. It’s their title to lose.

I had fun this season. I will come back again next year at age 41 and try again to win one another title. One of these years, we will get the bounces, a good draw in the post season and put it together. Hopefully before we all get old at the same time, we can win one with this group. We did pretty well with the things that were in our control but the mistakes seemed to always hurt, and we didn’t get many breaks. We are really close.

The near misses since moving down a division make it even harder to step away. This team and this league mean a lot to me, and I’m grateful for everyone who played and made it possible to spend another summer playing ball. It’s just a rec league, but it’s our rec league.

I’d like to call attention to outstanding seasons by TJ Morgan and the Blackstone brothers. There were others, but the top of our order was so good when TJ moved up to the second spot. We went on a nice run after a slow start. He could have had three or four home runs this year. Brandon threw a playoff shutout. Stef is my pick for league MVP.

Tom made different mistakes this year as manager than he did last year, which is a big compliment. It’s a mostly thankless job and he led us to a winning record and another playoff win despite suspect attendance for most of the year. He will give out team awards on the blog at some point.

We’ll get em next year.

Quack.

Playoff Gameday 3: Ducks vs. Grizzlies

2021 South Oakland Ducks, Gameday, NABA, pittsburgh NABA, South Oakland Ducks Baseball

South Oakland Ducks of the North Side (1-1)

vs

Bauerstown Grizzlies (1-0)

9pm

Springview Field

South Oakland looks to even their semifinal series against the Grizzlies tonight at the Duck Pond. The Ducks played the Grizzlies to a 2-2 tie through five innings in game one before the bullpen allowed five runs in the bottom of the sixth. South Oakland stranded several runners early.

The Grizzlies have not slowed down after one of the best regular seasons, record-wise, in recent memory. The Ducks will need timely hitting and another good starting pitching performance if they want to avoid elimination.

Winning this game will take all we’ve got. I like our chances at home, playing for our season.

Bad news for the Grizzlies

Ducks Shutout Devils. Face Bauerstown in Semis

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South Oakland scored four runs in the first inning and Brandon Blackstone (W, 1-0) pitched six scoreless innings as the Ducks blanked the Devils 4-0 last night in Brookline.

The game had a 2008 vibe with an energetic crowd, and a mis-measured diamond. South Hills sent an emergency starter to the mound and the Ducks sent nine batters to the plate in the first. South Oakland took advantage of several walks and a couple misplayed fly balls and scored four runs.

The Ducks scored on a bases loaded walk, a fielders choice, and two singles. Bouchard arrived in time to start the second and kept the Ducks off the scoreboard for the rest of the game.

Blackstone held the Devils to three hits, and didn’t walk a batter. The Ducks made zero errors on defense, but left several runners on base over the course of the game. Ducks shortstop Stef Blackstone hit two doubles and recorded the save on the mound.

South Oakland advances to the semifinals Saturday in Bauerstown where they will start a best of three series against the first place Grizzlies.

Quack.

There’s Nothing Like a Night Game at Moore Park

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Ducks End Regular Season on High Note. Face Devils in First Round

Back in 2003 the Piranhas had this guy Gustavo Lopez (behind Boley, holding bat), and used to just kill us. He hit like seven home runs in that first year, and hit well over .500. We played out in Ambridge on a tiny field past Economy Park on the other side of rt. 65 across from Red Cap Dry Cleaners. During the regular season, Lopez hit towering home runs into the little league field beyond ours. We would walk him late in the game even if it put the tying run on base. He was cocky, and proved to be one of the leagues first great villains. He’s probably a good guy. I don’t really know him.

In 2003, we had a so-so regular season. We were mostly all happy to still be baseball again. The morning time slot 45 minutes away from Oakland did us no favors. Almost all of us were hungover, still, drunk or smoking weed to calm our nerves on the long ride to the games. We finished fourth out of five teams, and made a run in the post season to our first championship over the Piranhas.

Lopez was a non-factor in the championship. Playing at John Herb the rainbow arced home runs he hit at Ambridge turned to fly outs. When we made the move to wood bats, he hit .176. I have no idea what he’s doing now.

Ducks vs D2 Box Score

Piranhas vs Ducks Recap

South Oakland clinched the four seed behind a solid spot start from Ben Doak (W, 1-0), and clutch hitting from Mark Lombardi Wednesday night in Spring Hill. With the win, South Oakland took the season series from the feisty Piranhas who upset them earlier in the year. The Ducks will be the home team tonight at Moore Park in an elimination game against the Devils.

Playoff Gameday 1: Ducks vs Devils

South Oakland Ducks of the North Side (13-11)

vs

South Hills Devils (13-11)

8:30 pm

Moore Park

Both South Hills and South Oakland started slow this year, lost a dominant pitcher, and still put together winning seasons. The Ducks and Devils both sit at 13-11. The Ducks own the tie breaker thanks to winning a tough season series in what many believe has become the premier rivalry of AA Pittsburgh NABA baseball. There’s not much to say here that would do this one justice. It’s been a great season, and it’s a shame one of these two teams has to go home early. Hopefully the Moore Park magic of seasons past is on our side.

Bad news for the Devils