Kendall has IronBirds flying high, chasing elusive playoff berth

Since their first season in 2002, the Aberdeen IronBirds have been a successful minor league franchise.

I said a successful, not winning franchise.

The IronBirds are an amazing business success. They sellout Ripken Stadium every night, have a top-notch staff and have a respected and well-known name within minor league baseball circles. They put on a great show for the fans that pour into Ripken Stadium.

But in eight seasons in the New York-Penn League, the IronBirds have had just one winning season and have never made the playoffs.

Maybe this will be the year.

Sporting a roster that features 12 draft picks from last month, the IronBirds are a good hitting team with a penchant for late-inning comebacks.

They have already won twice on walk-off Grand Slams, once each by Trent Mummey and Kipp Schutz.. They have nine comeback wins and three last at bat victories.

Last night, they produced another late win, beating Hudson Valley 5-2 on the road in a game that was tied at 2-2 entering the 8th.

Then the Birds came up with three runs to improve to 21-17. They are now in second in their division, four games out of first and they are just one game out in the wild-card race.

By the way, Kam Mickolio, with Aberdeen on an injury-rehab assignment, pitched a scoreless inning to get that win. He walked one and fanned two, with his velocity ranging between 91 and 93 and once touching 95.

Manager Gary Kendall says he has a group of unselfish, coachable players that have a good clubhouse chemistry.

"I have to take my hat off to these guys that aren't afraid to bunt or move a guy. That is nice to see and excites the fans. When we had some comebacks earlier (in the year), in games we didn't even win, the fans appreciated us making a game out of it.

"They believe in themselves and there is a real good chemistry here. I set some rules for the guys and this group, it didn't bother them.

"These players have really been low maintenance. They're mature.

"There is a fresh base here. They're fresh to the system and they want to make a mark," Kendall said.

Aberdeen began the year with a 9-13 mark but is 12-4 since. The IronBirds are off today and begin a series with first-place Brooklyn Wednesday night at Ripken Stadium.

David Anderson is batting .296-5-19 over 27 games and leads the league in slugging percentage. Schutz is second in the league in hits and 4th in batting at .356.

"Schutz has been one of the better hitters in the league. He's been a good clutch hitter and good hitter with two strikes. He's showing some power of late, lot of doubles," Kendall said.

Mummey's two-run double last night gave Aberdeen a 4-2 lead in the 8th. He's batting .302-3-14.

Third baseman Adam Gaylord, a 31st-round draft pick out of Stanford has been solid in the field and at bat and is hitting .312-2-16.

"He's got a really short swing and he believes in himself. He takes advantage of mistakes and has a pretty good plan. He's had some big hits for us. At times he can be impatient with some first-pitch outs, but he's hitting over .300. I was told he would give us some stability on defense but he's given us a lift on offense," Kendall said.

This year's 24th-round pick, right-hander Tim Adleman is 1-1, 2.64 and that is the 8th best ERA in the league.

Scott Copeland, taken in round 21 from Southern Miss, is 1-3, 3.09 and is 2nd in the league with a batting average against of .180 and reliever Jose Barajas is averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings.

Aberdeen is a team on a bit of a roll right now and maybe this will be the year they finally roll right into the playoffs.

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