By: Mike Ashmore, special to LIDucks.com
(Central Islip, N.Y., Sept. 29, 2018) – It would have been easy for the pressure to be too much for Dennis O’Grady.
The 29-year-old Long Island Ducks righty was tasked with taking the ball for Game 4 by manager Kevin Baez, an outing that the Floral Park native would be making in front of a large contingent of family and friends at Bethpage Ballpark.
Win, and you force one last “tomorrow.”
Lose? Lose was not an option. Pressure was not an option.
Seven innings of two-run ball in a big 6-3 win on Saturday night later, and it’s quite clear that what would be pressure for some was clearly motivation for O’Grady.
“That was special,” O’Grady said. “I got a lot of support from my family and a select group of friends. Sometimes, people think that having your family there puts a little extra pressure on you, but in my case, I just think it helps me relax and concentrate on what I’ve got to do.”
It certainly didn’t hurt. Perhaps of more significance, however, was O’Grady having been in a very similar situation just last week. The former Padres farmhand got the Game 5 start against the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division Championship Series, and gained valuable experience in a win-or-go-home contest that he was able to use on Saturday night.
“He’s a big game pitcher, the moment’s not too big for him,” Baez said.
“He actually wants to be in that situation, and that’s so important. That’s tough to teach. You talk to guys, you talk to the team, but the individual knows whether he wants to be in that moment or he does not. As an ex-player, I find myself on both sides of the equation, where I wanted to be in that moment and then there were some times where I didn’t want to be in that moment. When you want to be in that moment, usually good things happen. You relish the opportunity and you thrive on going out there and competing, and usually good things happen.”
Lately for Long Island, that mantra has carried over to the whole team, with an incredible resiliency to come back from being down 2-0 to the Skeeters to force a fifth and deciding game on Sunday.
“It’s almost pretty self-explanatory with going down to Sugar Land, losing that tough one, getting beat pretty good in the second one and then coming back here and ‘Wash’ with that big home run down 2-1 in the eighth…you win that game, and it shows that you’re really a resilient squad and that we’re going to play until the last out,” O’Grady said.
“Today, it was the same thing. Backs against the wall again, and the guys took care of business.”
More of the same from the Ducks, who have made a habit of late-game comebacks all season long.
“We’ve been in those situations before, even in the regular season, where I think we have a decent amount of late-inning wins,” O’Grady said. “If you do it in the regular season, it’s going to show up in the playoffs too when it really counts.”