06/18/2019 9:31 AM -
By Marco Meglio
Bridgewater, NJ- The Somerset Patriots enter the week playing some of their best baseball of the year with a crucial three-game set against their Liberty Division rival, the Long Island Ducks, on tap at TD Bank Ballpark.
Coming into Tuesday, Somerset has been operating in full force, completing a three-game sweep over Southern Maryland and winning eight of their last 10 overall. The only two losses came at the hands of Long Island the past week on the road.
On the other side, the first-place Ducks have dropped its last two games to the High Point Rockers, and now own a division-lead of just one game. The Rockers remain close atop the Liberty Division standings, sitting just 2.5 games behind Somerset.
The rivalry between Somerset and Long Island is well-documented. Founded in 1998 and 2000 respectively, the two remain the longest standing teams in the Atlantic League. Each team has maintained a high level of success within the league, with nine-combined championships between the organizations.
Additionally, the two rivals have met in the postseason in each of the last four seasons. Somerset got the better of Long Island in 2015 en route to the franchise’s record-sixth championship, while the Ducks have taken the last three postseason meetings. From there, Long Island has gone on to lose in the championship series in three-straight seasons.
This year is no different. Both teams are hungry for the top spot in the Liberty Division, jockeying in a tight-knit division race. A First-Half Liberty Division Championship brings with it a clinched playoff berth, home field advantage in the first round of the postseason and the opportunity to sell the postseason games months out. Somerset has won the first-half championship in each of the last two seasons and three of the last four.
The Patriots have found solid success coming back home with a 17-10 record at TD Bank Ballpark, including nine wins in a row at home. The pitching staff has collectively been stout of late; starting pitchers allowed just six earned runs during the recent three-game weekend sweep of Southern Maryland.
Overall, the Patriots staff has excelled this season with a league-best 3.32 ERA.
Confident and swimming with momentum, the Patriots understand the implications this series has on the division race.
The teams will play each other a total of 19 times throughout the season, with nine of those coming this month. While the Patriots focus is to leapfrog the Ducks, the rest of the teams in the Liberty Division continue to pose their own threats. It is a quick drop to the bottom, with the New Britain Bees sitting at 25-23 and only five and a half games out of first place.
The first of three begins tonight at 7:05 against the Ducks.
Brett Oberholtzer takes the mound as the Patriots look to make it four in a row and claim a piece of the top spot in the Liberty Division.