If the first-place IronBirds are waiting for the rest of the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division to ease up so the Aberdeen club can cruise to its first ever title, they might be disappointed, as over the last week and a half, nobody has given an inch.
Through their last 10 games, none of the four McNamara Division teams have played under the .500 mark, with Aberdeen, Hudson Valley and Staten Island all going 5-5, while the hard-charging Brooklyn team, which was just a half game behind the IronBirds as of Tuesday, went 7-3. The IronBirds (34-29) have won three straight, while Brooklyn (35-31) was riding a four-game winning streak. Third-place Hudson Valley (32-34) was still within striking distance of the IronBirds, 3.5 games back, and Staten Island (27-39) was a distant 8.5 games out of first.
Aberdeen has one week left in the 2013 season to stand tall, or fall to the wayside. After wrapping up a three-game road trip on Wednesday, the IronBirds are scheduled to come home for a two-date set with Hudson Valley, then they will travel to New York for what will arguably be the most important series of the season, a two-game engagement with Brooklyn. Three home games with visiting Lowell will then close out the IronBirds' regular-season schedule.
Badly needed victory
Needing a victory Monday night to avoid losing their half-game lead in the McNamara Division, the IronBirds came through against the host Lowell Spinners, rallying for five runs in the top of the 11th en route to an 8-3 win.
The victory was Aberdeen's third straight, and it allowed the IronBirds to stay a half game ahead of Brooklyn, which had completed its 12-5 win over Vermont earlier in the evening.
In Monday's contest, Aberdeen, down 3-1 after four innings, tied things at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, then both clubs went silent for the five innings. In the top of the 11th, Aberdeen found the solution, rallying for five before the Spinners could retire the side.
Leading the charge in the 11th were right fielder Manny Hernandez and left fielder Conor Bierfeldt, who each ripped a home run. Hernandez's first round-tripper of the season was a three-run job, while Bierfeldt's, his team-best ninth of the year, was a solo shot.
Baltimore Orioles' first-round draft pick Hunter Harvey made his second start with Aberdeen, but failed to rack up a decision. Over 3-1/3 innings, Harvey struck out five, walked two and allowed three earned runs on six hits.
Reliever Augey Bill (2-0) earned the win, going 2-2/3 shutout innings in which he struck out three, walked two and held the Spinners to a pair of hits.
Bierfeldt went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and one run scored, while Hernandez, the only other IronBird with multiple hits, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
'Birds take second straight
The Aberdeen IronBirds made the best of their short home series Sunday, beating the Connecticut Tigers, 5-2, for the second straight day at Ripken Stadium in New York-Penn League action.
Sunday's win was highlighted by Bierfeldt's offensive efforts. The outfielder went 3-for-4 and reached base in four of his five plate appearances. He picked up his 14th double of the season and drove in a run during the IronBirds' three-run fourth inning, which propelled the IronBirds to the series clinching win.
Aberdeen had taken a 2-0 lead with single runs in each of the first and second innings, but Connecticut plated a pair of runs in the top of the fourth to knot the game, 2-2. Mike Yastrzemski, Bierfeldt and Hector Veloz each had RBI singles in the inning, when Aberdeen sent eight men to the plate, with five reaching base on four hits and a walk. Yastrzemski (1-for-4) finished with two RBIs and a run scored and Jared Breen, who singled in the inning, finished 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored
Trey Mancini improved his team-best batting average to .329, going 1-for-3 with two runs scored.
Sebastian Vader had another solid outing on the mound for Aberdeen. The starting pitcher threw 5-2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) to get his sixth win of the season. He struck out four and walked one and scattered seven hits. Vader dropped his ERA to 2.64 on the season. Donnie Hart earned his third save.
The win kept the IronBirds a half game ahead in the McNamara Division. Brooklyn (34-31) and Hudson Valley (32-33, 2.5 games back) were both winners Sunday.
A 5-2 win Saturday
In Aberdeen's 5-2 win Saturday, the IronBirds took advantage of some sloppy Connecticut defense, which led to three Aberdeen runs in the eighth inning at Ripken Stadium.