Aberdeen IronBirds remain in pursuit of first-ever playoff berth

With a team full of 2013 Orioles draft picks, this year's short-season Single-A IronBirds are trying to make history by becoming the first playoff squad in Aberdeen.

This is the IronBirds' 12th season and not only have they never made the New York-Penn League playoffs, but Aberdeen has had just one winning season.

But after an extra-innings win last night at Hudson Valley, Aberdeen is 31-27 and leading its division by 1 1/2 games with 14 games left to play. Aberdeen is 11-6 over its last 17 games.

First-year IronBirds manager Matt Merullo, a former big league catcher, said he has a team full of unselfish players who have been playing good team baseball during the playoff push.

"The reward is right there for you," Merullo said. "Another W and you are that much closer to the playoffs and a potential championship. I was fortunate enough to win three rings in the minor leagues playing with the White Sox.

"It's important to win because you have to do the little things. If you don't learn how to do the little things, you are not going to advance. When you pull for each other as a team and play to win, the individual stats usually wind up being where guys want them. We have beaten some of the best teams in our league and we feel we can play with anyone.

"Winning is not only special to us here in Aberdeen, but to the whole organization. Everyone from Dan Duquette on down is paying attention to what is happening here."

The IronBirds are winning with a team that doesn't feature a host of players among the league stat leaders, save for a few. Trey Mancini, the O's eighth-round pick out of Notre Dame, is third in the league batting .325, is first in hits and fifth in slugging.

Left-hander Mitch Horacek, the club's ninth round pick out of Dartmouth, is 5-2 and his 2.34 ERA is 10th best in the league.

The IronBirds have great fans that often fill beautiful Ripken Stadium and it would be pretty special to see that club finally make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, with just a week to go in the Gulf Coast League regular season, the GCL Orioles are 28-25 and one game behind the GCL Red Sox for first place. The two clubs play a pair of games Monday and Tuesday.

The O's Triple-A Norfolk club is 2 1/2 games back of Pawtucket for a wild card berth in the International League. The Tides are 69-63 with 12 games remaining.

Double-A Bowie is in fourth place, but just 3 1/2 games out of first at 65-64 with 13 games left. The top two clubs in each division make the Eastern League playoffs.

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