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

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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

 

 

Gameday 23 and Bandidos Recap

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South Oakland split a weekend set with the Bandidos, winning Friday’s game 5-2, and dropping Saturdays game 2-1. On the season, the Bandidos won the net runs by 1, and took two of three from the Ducks. They also won the negotiating rights of disgruntled, pitcher/outfielder Greg Friend who is set to become a restricted free agent after the season.

“Maybe after next year,” a source in the Ducks front office said. “We wish him the best.”

“Is this real?” Friend asked. “I wish I’d known about this before the game.”

Bandidos management was not available for comment.

Friend made a great catch in Friday’s game and converted the save on Sunday. 

 

South Oakland Ducks of the North Side (12-10)

vs

Pittsburgh D2 (7-12-1)

9pm

Springview Field

Over the weekend, the Ducks clinched a non-losing record with their twelfth win. After a rough start, the team has rounded into form winning 9 of 12 down the stretch.

A win tonight would clinch the fourth seed and ensure a home game in the first round of the playoffs. We’d also stay mathematically alive for the three seed, depending on the outcome of the Cranberry (11-11-1) and South Side (13-9) game. A Ducks loss tonight keeps the six seed in play.

We want to stay hot heading into the meat grinder of an opening round next weekend and what looks to be an inevitable rematch with the new look South Hills Devils.

D2 has been a tough matchup for us historically. This one could go either way as both teams empty their bullpens, but we have a slight edge playing at home. Our record at the Duck Pond has been great this year. 

Bad news for D2

 

Ducks Win. South Oakland 7, Cranberry 3

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Box score

Brandon Blackstone (W, 6-1) scattered 5 hits and walked 2 over six innings to lead the Ducks to their eleventh win of the season. South Oakland jumped ahead thanks to a five-run second inning. TJ Morgan drove in three runs with a single off the wall. Ben Doak hit what looked like a home run into the overhanging branches in right, but settled for a double. Mark Lombardi had two hits and two RBI for South Oakland. Stef Blackstone faced 4 batters in the seventh for the save (2).

The win is the Ducks first over Cranberry since 2018, snapping an eight (?) game losing streak that included multiple extra inning games and some heart breaking loses. Let this be the start of a new streak.

South Oakland has matched its win total (11) from last season with four games to play: 

  • Two vs the Bandidos are on the schedule with Sunday’s start time up in the air and Friday’s start time moved up 8pm.
  • The D2 game is tentatively scheduled for Monday night in Manchester but is subject to change pending a field upgrade.
  • The Piranhas have not yet confirmed a time and place for our makeup game with them.

We can finish as high as third and as low as sixth. 

 

The Ducks play next on Friday, 8pm at Mellon Park vs the Bandidos.

Quack.

Cranberry Gameday and Grizzlies Recap

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South Oakland (10-9) lost 3-1 to the Grizzlies (19-3) last night in Spring Hill. Bauerstown hit a solo home run in the top of the first, and never trailed. They scored on off a walk and another off a double. TJ Morgan had the lone RBI for South Oakland. The Grizzlies pitcher kept the Ducks off balance all night. Both teams worked out of jams. Walks were the difference in the game.

The Ducks host Cranberry tonight at Springview Field, 9pm. These two teams have been on different trajectories since their last game. Cranberry is 3-7 in their last 10, while the Ducks are 7-3. However, South Oakland hasn’t beaten Cranberry since 2018. The games are always maddeningly close, but the Ducks seem to come up short. Tonight we have Brandon Blackstone going, and Springview is in the best shape of its life. Tonight is a great night to break a long losing street.

Bad news for Cranberry

Ducks Win: South Oakland 14, Bauerstown 4 (6 inn.)

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Ducks Starting pitcher Randy Patton (W, 3-1) threw four strong innings, and Tom Pulice drove in three runs to lead South Oakland to the win yesterday in Spring Hill.

The game was close until the bottom of the fourth. The Grizzlies led 4-2 before the Ducks sent ten players to the plate without recording an out. South Oakland scored nine in the fourth behind a three-run double by Tom Pulice. They added two in the fifth and one in the sixth. Brandon Blackstone pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

The Grizzlies clinched first place with a 13-0 win over the Eagles in the first half of the split double header yesterday. They ran out of gas in this one, and saved arms for Tuesday.

We were playing without most of our starting infield, and four starters. Tuesday’s game should be a good one against a rested Grizzlies squad with hopefully most of our starters. We need to take wins any way we can get them down the stretch, and we played well in this one.

Stats n’at

Ben Sorosky: 3-for-4, BB, 2 RBI

Hayden Hoffman: 2-for-4, 2 RBI

Matt Mullen: 3-for-4, RBI

South Oakland improves to 10-8 with the win.

The Ducks next game is Tuesday, 8pm at Springview Field vs Bauerstown.

Quack.

Gameday 18: Ducks vs Grizzlies

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South Oakland Ducks of the North Side (9-8)

vs

Bauerstown Grizzlies (17-2)

4pm

Springview Field

South Oakland opens up a two game series with Bauerstown today in a rare late afternoon game in Spring Hill. The Grizzlies are playing a split doubleheader today. they play the Eagles at 12pm at Herschel Park before barnstorming their way across two rivers to play the Ducks on the North Side. I give them a lot of credit for making the effort to get the game in.

 

Around the League

Standings as of 7/10

Bauerstown can clinch first place with a win or a Bandidos loss.

Cranberry has a double header against Bakery Square today.

The Devils have the easiest remaining schedule with four against the bottom two teams in the division.

The Eagles finish with Bauerstown, Cranberry and two against D2. 

We have a brutal schedule down the stretch. Starting on Tuesday, we have five games in six days (we will play the Piranhas on Thursday the 15th) with the D2 game still to reschedule. If D2 gets scheduled for Monday the 19th, that would be six games in seven days.

Individually, each game is winnable. Winning four of seven will keep us in the top half of the standings. 

The last time we played Bauerstown, the Grizzlies won on a walk-off sacrifice fly. I like our chances in a close game at home.

Bad news for the Grizzlies