Troy, N.Y. — The Tri-City ValleyCats and Aberdeen IronBirds were locked in a pitcher's duel for the second time in as many nights in Game 2 of their New York-Penn League semifinal series Saturday at Bruno Stadium. Tri-City won 3-0 to take the best of three series, two games to none.
Kyle Westwood got the starting nod for Tri-City, which won the first game of the series 1-0 on Friday, and Hunter Harvey took the mound for Aberdeen.
The teams were scoreless through six innings, but the ValleyCats struck in the bottom of the seventh for two runs and advanced to their second straight New York – Penn League championship series. The IronBirds season, the best in the team's history, came to an end.
"It was a great pitcher's duel," Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo said. "We had three opportunities with a runner on third base with less than two outs. You have to tip your hat to (Westwood) getting out of jams all those times. You can't make mistakes against good teams. We made one key mistake and they took advantage of it."
Harvey held Tri-City without a hit in his five innings. The right-hander, who struck out seven batters, was on a limit of five innings or 75 pitches.
Janser Severino came on in relief of Harvey in the sixth inning and the ValleyCats broke the scoreless tie in the decisive seventh on Jon Kemmer's double.
Ronnie Mitchell led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on an error. Kemmer laced a 3-0 offering down the left-field line for the game-winning hit.
"I was really hoping to just put it in play, put a good swing on it," Kemmer said. "I was pretty excited to get the green light at 3-0."
Kemmer scored on Chan Moon's single to right field.
Tri-City added its third run the following inning on an RBI single by Tyler White.
Westwood (1-0) went seven innings and scattered five hits. He walked one batter and struck out three.
"It was more like I was trying to one-up [Tri-City pitcher Michael Feliz] more than I was trying to one-up the other team," said Westwood with a laugh. "Feliz had a great game [Friday] and I was just trying to do what he did and try to give our team a chance to win."
Westwood worked out of two jams when his team turned a pair of inning-ending double plays. The IronBirds had runners at the corners and one out in the first inning, but Westwood got Conor Bierfeldt to ground into a double play to end the threat.
In the seventh, Aberdeen had an opportunity to break the scoreless tie when it had the bases loaded with one out, but Westwood escaped when second baseman Ryan Dineen and shortstop Moon turned a double play.
"I kind of worked myself into those," Westwood said. "I knew if I kept the ball down, I'd get some ground balls. My defense did a great job for me (Saturday)."
ValleyCats closer Gonzalo Sanudo earned the save with perfect eighth and ninth innings.
"Our pitchers have been keeping us in the game the past two games," Dineen said.
"We made history in the city of Aberdeen," Merullo said. "First time in 12 years (advancing to the playoffs). It was really great to see the city warm up to the team and the team play the kind of baseball that made people respect their efforts every night. It's going to be a memorable year, that's for sure."