For the short-season, Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, it was one of their biggest homers of the season. Last Sunday at Brooklyn, the IronBirds trailed the Cyclones 1-0 in the eighth inning. They needed to beat their division rival to stay ahead of them for first place.
Conor Bierfeldt took a swing and drove a ball estimated around 425 feet out to center field to tie the game.
“Our whole bench erupted and about 6,500 people just sat down in their seats,” Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo said.
After a wild ninth inning, the IronBirds picked up huge 5-4 win that gave them a 1 1/2 game lead with three games to play allowing the IronBirds to clinch the division title the next night in front of their home fans.
Bierfeldt has emerged as a key power hitter for the IronBirds, who begin the New York-Penn League playoffs tonight hosting Tri-City at Ripken Stadium. This is all the more impressive because Bierfeldt was not drafted until the 29th round in June and 878 players were selected ahead of him.
He was a senior this year at Division III Western Connecticut State University. Signed by O’s New England area scout Kirk Fredriksson, Bierfeldt hit .264 with 15 doubles, 12 homers, 36 RBIs, a .511 slugging percentage and .862 OPS in 62 games.
His 12 homers are second in the league and tied for the most ever by an IronBird. He led the league in slugging and tied for second in extra-base hits and total bases.
By the way, Fredriksson signed three of the O’s top nine picks from the 2013 draft, also getting fourth-round pick Jonah Heim, eighth-rounder Trey Mancini and ninth-round pick Mitch Horacek. But his player taken in round 29 has looked pretty solid.
“I see a real pro,” Merullo said of Bierfeldt. “I mean a guy that you don’t know when he is hitting .200 or .350. I love him. We call him bear, he’s like a big bear.
“He has tremendous raw power and he keeps working on hitting the ball the other way too. The college he went to is a very small division III program in the Northeast.”
A 22-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder, does Bierfeldt get his power from his size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) or maybe from his bat speed?
“Both. He is what you call country strong,” Merullo added. “I look at him and I think of Jay Buhner. He reminds me of him, not so much in his stance, but that kind of a build and physical strength. I’ve heard people around here say when (Nolan) Reimold was here, he was hitting those (same) kind of home runs coming off his bat.
“I’d say a half dozen of his home runs have had a major impact on the game. It’s not when the score is 10-0 in the ninth, it’s when we need them.”
The O’s may have found a good one down in the draft. Maybe some scouts overlooked him because he played Division III ball or they were wary of the competition he faced there, but Merullo believes Bierfeldt has shown much more talent that you’d expect from a 29th-round pick.
“It’s just old-fashioned scouting,” Merullo said. “The guy is big and strong and he has bat speed and athleticism. He is hitting breaking balls, he’s hitting 94 mph fastballs. He is hitting balls the other way. He shows aptitude and he understands the concepts we are teaching.
“At the same time he sings Miley Cyrus songs right before he hits. He’s a little goofy, but you have to be goofy to play this game.”
Bierfeldt and the IronBirds play the first playoff game in Aberdeen’s 12-year history tonight at Ripken Stadium at 7:05 p.m. against the Tri-City ValleyCats, a Houston affiliate.
The winner of the Aberdeen-Tri-City best-of-three series will advance to play the winner of the State College-Jamestown series in a best-of-three set for the New York-Penn League championship.