Even with temperatures in the mid-90's and humidity at the uncomfortable level on Wednesday night, 6,577 of the Aberdeen faithful packed Ripken Stadium to see the IronBirds play the home opener of their 10th anniversary season.
Unfortunately for those expecting a victory, the home team, after coming back from three runs down to tie the game, lost, 5-3, after Hudson Valley rallied for two runs in ninth inning.
The ceremonial pitch was an all-Ripken affair, as Cal Ripken Jr. took a catcher's position behind the plate to take a throw from his mother Vi, who made her toss from halfway between the mound and home.
Singing the national anthem and God Bless America prior to Wednesday's contest was country trio Due West, who performed both songs in three-part harmony.
For some on the IronBirds' roster, this was their first professional game in front of a sell-out home crowd, though Aberdeen's new skipper Gary Allenson said the charged atmosphere did not hinder his team.
"This is a nice ballpark, and the [Aberdeen] fans are really good," Allenson said. "But, this team already played opening day at Hudson Valley, so they were all a little bit more relaxed, except maybe for [pitcher Jorge] Rivera, who was starting tonight."
With the ceremonies taken care of and the real game under way, Hudson Valley struck first, scoring once in the visiting half of the second, and adding two more tallies in the third.
Unable to figure out Hudson Valley starter Taylor Guerrieri, who held the Aberdeen lineup to a pair of hits through five innings, the IronBirds jumped all over Renegade reliever Rob Finneran in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game 3-3 with three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch.
Sparking the three-run rally was Aberdeen leadoff man Will Howard, who whacked a double to dead center and later scored Aberdeen's first run. By going 2-for-5 on the game with a base hit to go with his two-bagger, Howard ran his season hit total to seven, which is a team-best mark.
Also contributing was Tuesday night's hero Torsten Boss, who cranked out a pair of home runs in Aberdeen's previous game, and went 1-for-4 with one RBI in Wednesday's loss.
"We faced a pretty good starting pitcher tonight," Allenson said. "He had four major league pitches, from what I saw. He had a live fastball, a big breaking ball, and a really good change up. He mixed it up pretty good, and we only had one good hit off of him. But, we came back to tie the game too. We weren't doing anything, then next thing you know, we tie the game, but we also had an opportunity to go ahead, and didn't get it done. Sometimes that happens. We've got a lot of players here, we're trying to mix them all in and get their feet wet. The good thing about baseball is, there's always tomorrow."
Silent since the third inning, Hudson Valley came back to life in the top of the final inning, notching a pair of runs on a double, a walk and an infield error to go up 5-3.
Needing a pair of runs in their final at-bat, the IronBirds went down in order, giving Hudson Valley the 5-3 victory, and dropping Aberdeen's season mark to 1-2.
Hudson Valley would have had pair of extra tallies were it not for Aberdeen backstop Pedro Perez's plate-blocking skills. In the third and eighth innings, Perez suffered collisions with Renegade runners attempting to score from third, and both times he tagged the runner out.
"Pedro did a great job behind the plate," Allenson said. "He's got a way to go with the bat, but he's very good defensively. He took a couple a shots tonight. That second one was pretty hard, and he blocked a lot of pitches in the dirt."
Speaking on his own experiences, Allenson, a former big league catcher, said the atmosphere at Ripken Stadium is somewhat different than the minor league parks during his playing days.
"When I came up, you might get 200, 300 people at a game," Allenson said. "In Triple-A ball you would maybe get 1,200 at a home game, so this is a little different here."
Taking the loss was Aberdeen reliever Enrico Jimenez (0-1), who allowed one earned run on three hits, struck out one and walked one. Rivera went five innings in the start, striking out two, walking two, and allowing three earned runs on three hits. David Richardson tossed two innings of relief, holding the Renegades to one hit, striking out four, and issuing three walks.
Roderick Bernadina was 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI in the loss, while Jerome Pena had one run for Aberdeen. Doug Bream recorded one RBI, while fellow IronBird Joel Hutter was 1-for-4 with a double.