By Daniel Gallen
Special to The Dagger
One night after a strong opening performance against Hudson Valley, Aberdeen could not string together the type of big inning it needed Saturday until it was too late, falling to the Renegades, 6-5.
Reliever Randy Henry (0-1), who was sent down to Aberdeen earlier in the day, took the loss, giving up the go-ahead run on a Geno Glynn single to right field that scored David Wendt from third, breaking a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning.
“We didn’t play particularly well and we almost got a gift at the end,” manager Gary Kendall said.
The IronBirds (1-1) mounted a furious but ultimately futile comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning off reliever Hunter Hill, scoring four runs to close the gap. Hill came on with one out in the ninth and leftfielder Tyler Kolodny on second, and promptly walked first baseman Mike Flacco and pinch-hitter Austin Rauch before Kolodny and Flacco scored on a throwing error by shortstop Derek Dietrich, cutting the Renegades (1-1) lead to 6-3.
Catcher Austin Goolsby then singled in Rauch and pinch-hitter Kipp Schutz reached on an error by second baseman Robby Price that scored second baseman Auburn Donaldson. After a walk to designated hitter LJ Hoes to load the bases, Kolodny, who led the inning off, struck out to end the game.
“The baseball gods have a way of putting yourself in check,” Kendall said, referring to failed conversions by the IronBirds with runners on base.
The IronBirds had a chance to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the inning against right-handed reliever Omar Bencomo, but Flacco struck out swinging to strand Kolodny on third. In his Aberdeen debut, the little brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was 0-for-3 with two flyouts, a strikeout, and a walk. Flacco did flash the leather in the field, making plays on line drives hit up the first base line off the bats of the Renegades.
“When you have a bad night at the plate, you can kind of get over it,” Flacco said. “A bad night in the field is a little harder to get over. I always struggle to get over the errors more than the strikeouts.”
Hudson Valley added two more runs in the seventh off of reliever Will Startup to push the lead to 4-1 and the game further out of reach for the IronBirds. With runners on first and second and one out, designated hitter Steve Tinoco singled to left field to score rightfielder Burt Reynolds and third baseman Nick Schwaner. In the bottom of the inning, the IronBirds were set down in order by reliever Omar Bencomo.
Right-hander Scott Copeland ran into trouble in his pro debut, lasting only two innings. In those two innings, the 21st-round draft pick from Southern Mississippi gave up one run on two hits and four walks while striking out two Renegades. Kendall said that Copeland is on a pitch count and will slowly work his way up to longer appearances. Righty Bruno Sanchez came on in relief and pitched respectively, pitching three innings of shutout baseball, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out one.
Sanchez escaped a jam in the top of the fifth when he had runners on first and third with two out, but got Tinoco to ground out to him to end the inning.
The bottom of the fifth saw the IronBirds lose a chance for a big inning against left-handed starter Julius Dettrich (1-0), as two walks put Omar Casamayor and Goolsby on first and second with no outs. But Austin Knight failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt and Casamayor was forced out at third. The next batter, shortstop Mike Rooney, tried to lay down another sacrifice bunt, but Goolsby was picked off at second base. Rooney then struck out to end the inning.
“We didn’t execute getting our runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt,” Kendall said. He stressed that if this was successful, the entire outcome of the game could have been different.
Hudson Valley got on the board early in the top of the second, when Wendt scored on a Robby Price sacrifice fly off of starting Copeland. The IronBirds answered back in the bottom of the third when an L.J. Hoes double to left field scored Rooney who had walked in the at-bat before.
The Renegades added some security off reliever Jose Barajas in the top of the eighth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Reynolds lifted a soft popup into right field. Rightfielder Jeremy Nowak and Donaldson, replacing Casamayor in the field, converged on the ball, but both let up at the last moment in a moment of miscommunication, much to the ire of the Ripken Stadium crowd and Kendall. Leftfielder Brian Bryles and centerfielder Craig Lyerly scored, Reynolds ended up on second base and the Renegades had a 6-1 lead.
The story of the evening before the failed comeback attempt in the ninth was the Renegades pitching, which held Aberdeen hitters in check all night until Hill entered the game. Dettrich and Bencomo combined to three-hit the IronBirds and allow only two runs over 8.1 innings. Dettrich pitched wildly, but effectively, going 5.1 innings, allowing one run, all three hits, and five walks while striking out two. The walks were timely for the IronBirds, but the team couldn’t put anything together behind them. Bencomo was nearly flawless in relief, throwing three hitless innings while striking out five.
“The hits were hard to get tonight,” Kendall said. “We did have some balls hit right at people.” While he does like to win, Kendall also stressed that this is a developmental team and league. “From a developmental standpoint, I would much rather have a lineout to the pitcher than a bleeder to the outfield for a single that scores a run.”
The IronBirds finish out the opening series of the 2010 season Sunday evening at 5:35 p.m. when right-hander Justin Moore makes his first start for Aberdeen against right-hander Wilmer Almonte. Moore is making his first start for Aberdeen after spending 2009 with the Bluefield Orioles and 2007 and 2008 with the Gulf Coast League after being drafted in the 26th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Almonte was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 as a 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic. He spent 2007 and 2008 with the Rays affiliate in the Dominican Summer League before spending 2009 in the Gulf Coast League where he had a 3-2 record with a 3.32 ERA.
In organizational news, Henry was transferred to Aberdeen from Delmarva. Outfielder Lance West was released to free up a roster spot. Henry was scheduled to get a “clean inning” Saturday, but that did not go as planned for the team. West’s release was an “organizational decision” according to Kendall. Kendall said, “When you release a player, you don’t just release the player, you release their family, their dreams.” Kendall said West handled the decision “professionally” and Kendall said he will help West try to continue a career in baseball.