ABERDEEN, Md. - The Aberdeen IronBirds and Tri-City ValleyCats are locked in an early pitchers' duel in Game 1 of their New York-Penn League playoff series tonight at Ripken Stadium.
Two pitchers that have had good seasons with strong finishes have carried that over so far in this game. Aberdeen and Tri-City are scoreless through three innings.
Aberdeen starter Sebastian Vader went 7-3 with an ERA of 2.43 in 14 games, 13 as a starter this year. He allowed an average against of just .222 over 85 1/3 innings and gave up just one earned run over 12 2/3 in his last two regular season starts.
Tri-City's Michael Feliz (4-2, 1.96 ERA) posted the top ERA in the New York-Penn League this season. While he gave up four runs over seven innings in his last start, he pitched to an ERA of 1.75 in August. This season, he fanned 78 in 69 innings.
Vader retired the first nine batters tonight. Aberdeen has the game's only hit, a single in the third by Federico Castagnini.
During the regular season, Aberdeen (40-32) went 4-2 against Tri-City (44-32), winning two of three both at home and on the road.
The series shifts to Troy, N.Y., and Bruno Stadium tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for Game 2 and Orioles top draft pick Hunter Harvey (0-1, 2.25 ERA) gets the start for the IronBirds. Game 3, if necessary, is Sunday at 5 p.m. at Tri-City.
Scoreless through five: The IronBirds and ValleyCats are still 0-0 after the fifth inning. Aberdeen got two on with two outs in the fifth but Feliz fanned Manny Hernandez for his sixth strikeout of the night. Vader pitched around a leadoff double in the fourth and that is the only hit he has given up so far tonight.
Still looking for runs: Aberdeen and Tri-City now head to the eighth tied at 0-0. Vader has allowed just three hits through seven innings and pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the seventh. Tri-City is 0-for-5 against him with runners in scoring position. It's been a strong night for the Orioles' 2010 18th-round pick and he just took the mound to start the eighth. But Feliz has given up just three singles in keeping Aberdeen off the board.
Still looking: What a pitchers' duel tonight as we go to the ninth at 0-0. Vader has allowed four singles, but no runs, over the last two innings and takes the mound to start the ninth. Very impressive outing by the 21-year-old righty tonight.
Awesome outing by Vader: Vader retired the first batter of the ninth and then lefty Donnie Hart came on for Aberdeen. Vader went 8 1/3 innings tonight to match his season high allowing five hits and no runs with no walks and six strikeouts.
One big swing: Just moments after Vader left the game to a huge ovation, Tri-City's Conrad Gregor hit a solo homer to right off Hart and Tri-City takes a 1-0 lead to the last of the ninth.
It's a final: Aberdeen got two singles, but no runs in the last of the ninth as Tri-City won the series opener, 1-0 over Aberdeen.
After the game, Sebastian Vader said:
"Did all I could. Pitched probably the best I've pitched in my life, I think. I'm a big-game pitcher, especially the playoffs. When they got runners in scoring position, I was just thinking they can't score.
"Tonight, tried to change speeds, attack the zone, get ahead and not ever let them sit on a pitch. I played my heart out, I did all I could and left it all out there."
Manager Matt Merullo said:
"Good baseball game. It's always great to see pitching like that from both sides. One swing of the bat was the difference in the game. It was two teams that showed why they are in the playoffs.
"He's (Vader) been getting better and better with each outing and more money on the table. He was outstanding against Hudson Valley and Brooklyn when we needed him. He even stepped it up a notch tonight. The bigger the game, the more he stepped it up. Very impressive.
"The guy hit a good pitch (for the homer in the ninth). He didn't get behind. He didn't groove one. Guy just put a good swing on it and drove it out of the park.
"Now we get on the bus and go up there where we've played well. We do well on the road. We didn't give anything away or play poorly. We'll get after it tomorrow."