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Cyclones take playoff series from Yanks; finals next

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The Brooklyn Cyclones swept aside their hated rivals, the reigning champion Staten Island Yankees, in the opening round of the New York–Penn League playoffs with a spirited 3–1 victory on Monday night at Keyspan Park — one day after the team’s 8–4 triumph in Staten Island.

The Cyclones had to wait extra long to pop the corks on their Champagne: the start of Monday’s clincher was delayed two hours by fog in steamy Coney Island and the game itself was halted for nearly an hour after the fifth inning with the Cyclones leading 2–0.

“It’s not only [great] that we beat the Yankees, but it’s that we’re going to the final,” said Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo, the only skipper to take the Clones to the championship round in the team’s seven-year history.

The 2001 season, you’ll remember, ended with the Cyclones leading the Williamsport Crosscutters 1–0 in the best-of-three series. The 9-11 attacks ended the playoffs and the Cyclones and Crosscutters were named “co-champions.”

On Monday, despite the fog delays, the Clones dispatched with the 2005 and 2006 champion Yankees with seemingly little effort.

Brooklyn got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the third inning, thanks to an RBI double by Raul Reyes and a single by Ezequiel Carrera.

The team added an insurance run in the sixth when Sunday night’s hero, Lucas Duda, singled to center to score Micah Schilling.

Without Duda, this series might have been another story. On Sunday, he tied the game at 4–4 with a monstrous two-run homer in the sixth. Then he capped a four-run ninth inning rally with a two-run single to drive the final stake in the Yankees’ vampire-like hearts.

After Sunday’s game, Duda was humble as ever.

“I’m just glad we won,” said Duda, the Mets’ seventh-round pick in the 2007 draft. “On the home run, I think the wind took it out there. I don’t think that would have gone out on a normal night.

“And the [ninth-inning single] just found the hole,” he added. “Luck was on my side.”

Reliever Stephen Clyne pitched two perfect innings in relief to get the victory on Sunday. Thankfully, he was able to put the first-game win in proper perspective.

“It’s a huge a win for us,” he said. “We dislike them as much as they dislike us. It’s like the Mets vs. the Yankees, like a mini–Subway Series. We wanted to win it as bad as you can.”

On Monday, that intensity showed throughout. Starter Dylan Owen, who had a team-leading nine regular-season wins and a league-leading 1.49 ERA, pitched five shutout innings before Brant Rustich pitched two more. Edgar Ramirez got the save, though he yielded an unearned run in the ninth inning, the only blemish on the night.

“To me, the concentration level was great tonight,” Alfonzo said. “A really big run was in the sixth inning on the hit by Duda. I feel great for Duda. He was trying too hard in the regular season against the Yankees. Now, in the playoffs, he’s learned to stay back on the pitch away from him.

“He’s just been outstanding the last two games,” Alfonzo added.

The Cyclones will play the winner of the Oneonta Tigers–Auburn Doubledays series, which is tied at one game apiece. Game 3 of that series will be played Tuesday night, and the finals will begin on the road on Thursday.

Updated 11:39 am, September 11, 2007
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