Paced by Kipp Schutz’s go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth inning, the Aberdeen IronBirds put together the big inning the team had been looking for on the way to dispatching the Staten Island Yankees 4-2.
“We just got some timely hits,” manager Gary Kendall said.
The IronBirds (5-6) had been stymied by Staten Island (4-6) starter Shane Greene (0-1, 6.28) for the first four innings of the game with only designated hitter David Anderson reaching base on a walk in the second inning and a single in the fourth inning.
However, the IronBirds were getting good contact off of some of Greene’s pitches. Schutz sent a ball to the warning track in centerfield that centerfielder Eduardo Sosa tracked down in the first inning and third baseman Adam Gaylord was robbed by leftfielder Shane Brown at the wall in the second inning.
“Guys made adjustments and the first three innings [Greene] pitched well,” Anderson said. “He walked me and that was the only mistake he made. In the fourth I got the single and it seemed to get everybody on the road and we started swinging the bats well later in the game.”
“We were hitting it hard,” Schutz said. “We were just hitting it at people tonight. We thought it was going to change in one inning and obviously it did.”
The IronBirds finally broke through in the bottm of the fifth, taking advantage of breaks presented by the Yankees defense. Nowak reached base with one out on an error by Mahoney. A fielder’s choice by catcher Joe Oliveira put Oliveira on first with two outs. Second baseman Omar Casamayor continued his clutch hitting for the IronBirds this year with a deep fly ball off the wall in right-center field. Oliveira scored to cut the Staten Island lead in half, 2-1, but Casamayor was called out at third trying to stretch his double into a triple.
This set the stage for the sixth inning when the IronBirds combined base runners and timely hitting to score three runs and take a 4-2 lead. Centerfielder Trent Mummey walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Michael Rooney. Then Schutz drilled a Greene offering over the right field fence, over the IronBirds bullpen, and over the supply shed beyond the bullpen to give the IronBirds a lead for the first time in the game at 3-2.
“It feels great,” Schutz, who went 1-for-4 with the home run and two RBIs said. “I wish I could have hit one that wasn’t right at everybody today, but it felt great. Playing in front of these fans too. Hearing that roar after you hit one, it’s great. He hung a slider to me and I hit it will. It got us the win so I feel good.” Schutz is batting .355 with one home run, six RBIs, and four runs scored for the year.
“Schutz’s takes are really good right now,” Kendall said. “It looks like he’s seeing the ball really well.”
“My confidence is high right now,” he said. “I’m feeling good at the plate. I just have to maintain that and hopefully it keeps going well.”
The IronBirds were not done yet though. Anderson worked a walk off Greene to reach base for the third time in the game before Gaylord popped out for the second out. Michael Flacco sent a deep fly ball into the gap in right-center field to score Anderson and give the IronBirds an insurance run at 4-2.
“[Greene] was getting that fastball in on me and then freezing me on those sliders,” Flacco said. “It made me a little uncomfortable up there, but luckily he left one just out enough over the plate that I was able to get to it there.”
Tim Adleman ran into his first real trouble of his short pro career in the third inning when Staten Island mounted a two-out rally and scored a run. Brown doubled into the right field corner, a play that could have easily been stretched into a triple as rightfielder Jeremy Nowak booted the ball in the corner. Catcher Jeffery Farnham put the first tally on the board with a long single off the wall down the right field line to score Brown and give Staten Island a 1-0 lead.
The Yankees made the score 2-0 in the top of the fourth behind timely hitting and baserunning. Second baseman Casey Stevenson drew a one out walk of Adleman before shortstop Jose Mojica singled, advancing Stevenson to second. Stevenson then scored when first baseman Kevin Mahoney singled into right field to put Staten Island up 2-0. Adleman got third baseman Luis Parache to strike out and Sosa to ground out to end the inning.
For the game, Adleman pitched 4.2 innings, giving up two runs on five hits while walking four and striking out five.
“I just wanted to hit my spots with the fastball and keep them off-balance with some off-speed, so for the most part I was able to do that tonight,” Adleman said. “I thought I felt a little tired toward the end of my outing, but I think it was just a matter of not being able to command my fastball throughout the game.”
His Staten Island counterpart Greene pitched 5.2 innings, gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits, and walked three batters while striking out four.
“[Greene] pitched really well,” Kendall said. “It’s a shame he got the loss. He had a good sinker, he had a good slider, [and] he had a heavy ball that was hard to lift. It just seemed like he made one bad pitch with a slider to Schutz. All of a sudden he’s down 3-2 and then he got a pitch in the middle of the plate to Flacco. He only made a couple bad pitches, but he pitched very, very well. He should be proud of himself and usually a performance like that gets you a W.”
The Aberdeen bullpen kept the game close enough for the offense to take over. Lefthander Brandon Holloway (1-1, 0.00) entered the game in the fifth inning with two outs and a runner on. Holloway went on to throw 2.1 innings of one-hit baseball, striking out two batters. T.R. Keating entered the game in the eighth inning and allowed one hit and struck out one batter. David Walters came on and pitched the ninth to earn his second save of the year.
“[Holloway] did a really good job keeping us right there,” Kendall said. “He threw some zeroes up there and then we got a couple of big hits. Of course the Schutz hit and then Flacco’s big hit with Anderson scoring.”
He added, “Whenever you can throw up some crooked numbers, two or three runs in an inning, with the pitching we’ve got, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Besides Schutz, Anderson was the IronBirds offensive star of the game. While his night lacked Schutz’s flash, Anderson was steady for the IronBirds reaching base in all four of his plate appearances, officially going 1-for-1 with three walks and one run scored. For the season, Anderson’s on-base percentage is .467 and he has walked 6 times to go along with a .333 average.
“Earlier in the season I was getting myself out swinging at bad pitches,” Anderson said. “But you get up there and get comfortable and pick up your pitch early in the count, you usually don’t miss it.”
“To Anderson’s credit, he’s got a pretty good eye up there,” Kendall said.
Tuesday night Aberdeen takes on Staten Island in game two of the three game series. Left-handed pitcher Blake Mechaw (0-0, 16.20) makes his second start of the season for the IronBirds, pitching against lefthander Sam Elam (0-1, 7.36) of the Yankees. Mechaw started against the Yankees on June 23 and only lasted 1.2 innings, giving up three runs on two hits and walking five batters and striking out two, but not getting a decision. Elam got a no-decision against Aberdeen on June 24, giving up five runs on six hits over 3.2 innings. He gave up two home runs, four walks, and struck out three in the start. Mike Gonzalez will make his second rehab appearance for the IronBirds in the game. Game time is at 7:05 p.m.