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IronBirds win streak hits season-high five games

The Aberdeen IronBirds extended their season-best winning streak to five games on Monday night, overcoming a pair of deficits to best the visiting Hudson Valley Renegades, 6-4.

With the victory, the IronBirds improved to 18-32 on the year. Through Monday, Aberdeen was in the cellar of the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, 7.5 games behind third-place Hudson Valley.

Monday's contest had a paid attendance of 6,544.

"I'm happy with the way they were playing tonight, and to get another win," Aberdeen skipper Leo Gomez said. "We had good pitching. We did a good job of moving the runner over. I'm looking for them to keep playing the way we have over the last five games. They've been scoring the runs when we've needed them, and we've been pitching very well, so if they keep playing like they have, we just want to keep it that way."

Aberdeen's big inning was the seventh, which the two teams entered tied, 3-3. Kyle Hoppy was the first IronBird to reach, blasting a leadoff double, and Adam Davis followed with a walk. Sammie Starr moved his teammates over one base with a sacrifice bunt, and Hoppy scored what turned out to be the game-winning run when the Renegades committed an error on Mychal Givens' grounder to short. After Givens swiped second base to put a pair of men in scoring position, Joe Velleggia cleared the bases, ripping a two-RBI double down the left field line.

Velleggia, who was selected to play in the upcoming New York-Penn League All-Star Game in Lowell, Mass., earned Player of the Game honors, finishing up 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs.

"They were kind of pounding me inside [the strike zone] the whole game, and I wasn't able to hit it at first," Velleggia said. "On that last [double], I got a fastball and was able to hook it down the line. In my second at bat, it was actually a slider that was left over the plate. I thought I was a little bit in front of it, but I got enough of the barrel on it. I was just trying to stay solid, to be ready for anything. My approach is normally to look for a fastball and adjust, so that's what I was trying to do."

IronBird starter Mike Wright, the Orioles' third-round pick in the 2011 MLB draft, put together his third solid outing in a row, working through five innings in which he allowed one earned run, struck out two and walked one.

"I felt good with all my pitches in the bullpen, but wound up having trouble with all of them during the game," Wright said. "My slider felt really good there later in the game. Most times I go into a game thinking I'm going to throw all fastballs, until they start doing something with them. I got into a little trouble [tonight], so I went to my slider because it was feeling the best for toward the end, and I'm going to throw anything that's working to get outs."

Aberdeen reliever Jose Mota (1-1) came on in the top of the sixth after Wright's departure, and stayed on the mound for the balance of the game, striking out three without issuing a walk and surrendering one earned run on four hits to pick up his first win of the season.

"Jose had four good innings tonight, pitched very well," Gomez said. "Tonight, and the last time he [appeared], [when he] pitched three innings, he's done well."

With Aberdeen down 2-0 heading into the home half of the second frame, the IronBirds cut the Renegade lead in half with a one-run rally. Wynston Sawyer led off and got to first via an error by Hudson Valley shortstop. After moving over to second on Connor Narron's walk, Sawyer tagged and advanced to third when Austin Knight lofted a fly ball to center. Sawyer scored fro third on Dudley Leonora's sacrifice fly.

In the bottom of the third, Davis cranked a leadoff double up the left field line, then motored all the way to third when Starr bunted for a single. Givens came to the plate third and hit into a fielder's choice that allowed Davis to score the tying run from third.

Down 3-2 after the Renegades posted one run in the top of the fifth, Aberdeen evened things up in the home half of the frame. Things did not start well, as Davis and Starr were retired to start the inning, but Givens took advantage off a two-out error, reaching second base after the Renegades pitcher threw away a grounder to him. Velleggia then strode to the plate and ripped the first pitch he saw to the corner in left, pushing Givens home and tying things up 3-3.

Davis went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs. Givens was 1-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, while Sawyer was 1-for-4 with one run. Starr had one hit in the victory and Hoppy was 1-for-4 with a double and one run.

The IronBirds head out for a three-game road set with the State College Spikes beginning Tuesday, then return home of Friday night for a 7:05 p.m. home contest with Williamsport.

4-1 victory

In stark contrast to his previous two starts, during which he allowed 15 earned runs over 4-2/3 innings, Orioles' first-round draft pick Matt Hobgood came through with a fine outing on Sunday night, taking a perfect game through 2-2/3 innings in the IronBirds 4-1 victory over Hudson Valley at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium.

Hobgood, who was the fifth overall selection of the 2009 MLB amateur draft, was making his fourth start in Aberdeen since reporting to the club in July on a rehab assignment.

The 20-year-old righty retired the first eight hitters he faced in succession, five on pop outs and three on ground balls, before surrendering a two-out single in the third. After allowing an RBI double, which accounted for Hudson Valley's only tally, Hobgood escaped the inning with his first strikeout of the evening.

"It's nice to not give up six runs, or however many I gave up in the last [start]," Hobgood said in a post-game interview. "I felt like I was very in-control of myself, of my body, and all of my pitches. I threw a couple first-pitch curveballs for strikes, and I threw a change up first pitch for a strike. I threw an 0-2 change up that I wanted to bury, but the guy wound up hitting it over second base, then the next guy hit that double."

"This outing I was able to keep runners off base for the most part," he continued. "I got behind a little bit on some of the hitters, but was able to stay confident. My arm feels good, and I was peeking up there at [the radar gun reading] to see how fast I was throwing."

In the top of the fourth, Hobgood coaxed a pair of fly outs from the first two Renegades batters, then followed by allowing his final hit of the evening, and plunking the following batter. With a man now in scoring position, the Aberdeen starter got out of the frame with his second and last strikeout of the contest.

Hobgood was lifted in the fifth after surrendering back-to-back walks. As he left with the IronBirds trailing 1-0, he had to settle for a no decision.

"I wasn't tired," Hobgood said. "I usually pride myself on finishing better than I start. I was just trying to get ahead of them, and threw a couple sinkers down that just didn't hit [the strike zone]. I'm a little disappointed with that, but I'm glad I was able to get the four innings in."

Ryan Berry, Baltimore's ninth pick of the 2011 draft, took over for Hobgood with two on and no out in the fifth, and got out of the jam by retiring the next three hitters in order. Over two innings of work, Berry (1-1) struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit to pick up his first win of the season.

Zach Petersime me came out of the Aberdeen bullpen in the seventh and worked through two innings, striking out two, allowing no walks and holding Hudson Valley to one hit.

Kyle Simon closed out the game, retiring the side in the ninth after allowing two walks in his first save of the year.

With the hosts down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Aberdeen's offense came to life.

Narron began the rally by earning a leadoff walk, moved over to second on Knight's sacrifice bunt, then made it over to third when Leonora grounded out to the right side of the infield.

Hoppy drew a two-out walk, and Glynn Davis followed with a base hit to right that drove Narron home, tying things up 1-1.

With runners on the corners, Martin Serrata belted a double to left, bringing home Hoppy and Davis, and putting Aberdeen up 3-1.

Aberdeen added an insurance run in the eighth with an attempted double steal of home and second base, a move that the IronBirds have successfully pulled off several times this season.

Davis started the frame with a leadoff walk, and moved over to third when Serrata's sacrifice bunt was misplayed. With two out after Starr and Velleggia went down swinging, Serrata broke for second base, drawing a throw from the Renegades' catcher. Serrata was caught, but Davis sprinted for home, crossing the plate before his teammate could be tagged for the inning-ending out.

"I feel good," Hobgood, who is recovering from a strained rotator cuff that was discovered in the off-season, said in a further assessment of Sunday's performance. "I think every start now, even if it doesn't statistically look good, I feel that I'm slowly getting my feel back for the pitches. If you can't throw your pitches for strikes, that gives the hitters the ability to zero in, whether you're throwing 89 or 95 [mph], they can look for [your fastball], whereas, if you're throwing your curveball for strikes, and your change up for strikes, it's going to make your fastball that much better. I feel that's something that I took a step forward on today, in terms of feeling more comfortable out there."

Birds cruise to 10-3 win

On Friday, the IronBirds dropped Hudson Valley, 10-3, going away.

Trent Howard (3-1), Aberdeen's most successful pitcher thus far, picked up his third victory of the season, holding Hudson Valley to three earned runs on four hits, striking out six and walking three over five innings of work.

Velleggia led the way offensively for the IronBirds, going 2-for-5 with a home run, his seventh of the season, three RBIs and one run scored. Starr went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs and one walk, while Leonora was 2-for-5 with two runs. Sawyer was 1-for-3 with a run scored and one RBI, while Narron also had one RBI and scored once. Knight went 1-for-4 with one RBI and one run, while Serrata drove in two runs, scored once, and was 2-for-4 with a double.

Devin Jones picked up his first save of the season with a three-inning relief stint, striking out four, allowing zero walks and holding the Renegades to three hits. Luis Lebron relieved Howard in the sixth and retired all three hitters he faced in order.

Aberdeen drops Lowell 9-1

Aberdeen scored early and often in its Thursday road match up with the Lowell Spinners, putting up seven runs in the first two frames en route to a 9-1 victory.

The IronBirds posted three tallies in the opening frame, then followed up with four more in the second. Aberdeen's final runs came in the sixth and ninth innings, while Lowell scored its lone run in the third.

Starr was Aberdeen's hottest bat, going 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, three runs scored, two RBIs and two walks. Sawyer went 2-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and two runs, while Knight knocked in three RBIs on one hit. Glynn Davis was 1-for-5 with one runs, while Givens reached base in all five of his at-bats, going 3-for-3 with a double, drawing two walks, scoring once and driving in one run. Leonora and Hoppy both scored one run in the win.

Angel Cespedes (1-2) earned his first victory of the year, tossing 3-2/3 innings of relief in which he scattered three hits, struck out one and walked two.

Making his first start in Aberdeen after being promoted from the Gulf Coast Orioles was Tyler Wilson, who put up a fine outing, striking out four, allowing no walks and holding the Spinners to one earned run on four hits in four innings.

Enrico Jimenez closed out the game for Aberdeen, allowing one hit and striking out two over 1-1/3 frames.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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