ABERDEEN, Md. – It was certainly much more than a three-man show. But on a night when high Single-A Aberdeen had to win to save its season, the Orioles' second, third and fourth selections in the 2022 MLB Draft came up big.
Dylan Beavers, taken No. 33 overall from Cal, Max Wager, drafted No. 42 from Clemson and Jud Fabian, taken No. 67 overall from Florida, combined to go 6-for-11 with two doubles, a homer, five runs and seven RBIs as Aberdeen beat Bowling Green 13-6.
The win evens the South Atlantic League best-of-three championship series at one win each. The teams play at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Ripken Stadium in a winner-take-all game. The game 3 winner will be SAL champs.
The last farm team for the Orioles to win a league championship was Double-A Bowie in the Eastern League in 2015. Seven years later, Aberdeen can join them.
The IronBirds offense was cooking early and often.
Beavers went 2-for-3 and scored four runs. He walked and scored on Fabian’s single in the first and his three-run homer in the second had Aberdeen off to an early 4-0 lead.
“That was the plan. Just get us going. Get us out to an early lead at home,” said Beavers, who is 6-for-20 with three RBIs and seven runs in five playoff games.
“That (homer) felt good. Haven’t done that in a while. I just simplified the swing. Try to be short to it and stay balanced. Let my body do the work for me.”
Since the Orioles selected Beavers, their No. 8 prospect via MLBPipeline.com, in the draft, he’s played in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and for low A Delmarva until joining Aberdeen.
“It’s been a lot of fun. From Florida to Delmarva to here, bunch of great guys. Guys working hard for one common goal. It’s been a lot of fun," he said.
Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado watched his team produce 13 hits and go 7-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Aberdeen led 9-2 after the fourth inning.
Mercado credited Beavers for getting things going at the top of his order.
“Huge home run. Great at-bats,” he said of Beavers.
Heston Kjerstad, who is headed soon to play in the Arizona Fall League, had a two-run triple in the fourth and scored on the play on an error. The offense came throughout the order as No. 8 hitter Isaac De Leon, 20, from the Dominican Republic had two hits and two runs. Frederick Bencosme, batting ninth from the DR, went 3-for-4 with a double and three runs.
“The offense came through right from the beginning,” added Mercado. “We talked about trying to win every inning. It gives us confidence. Great performance out of the young guys, they came through big. Beavers, big day. Fabian. (Frederick) Bencosme had three hits. Great day for the Birds. Also, thanks to the IronBirds fans for the support. Great atmosphere.”
The crowd was not huge, at 1,369, but it sure was spirited in support of Aberdeen, which has been playing minor league games since 2002 and until this year had never won a playoff series.
Right-hander Jean Pinto, who had an ERA of 0.90 in five August games, got the start and win. He allowed three runs (one earned run) on three hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Before players such as Trey Mancini and Mike Yastrzemski, along with vets like Garabez Rosa led Bowie to that 2015 Double-A championship, the last O’s farm team to win its league was Single-A Frederick in 2011, a team led by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.
Now these IronBirds can match those Keys and Baysox teams.
Beavers said the players really want a championship.
“Big time. We made it here. No reason not to put our foot on the gas tomorrow and give it everything we’ve got. Last game of the season, no matter what. Leave it all out there.”
Added Mercado: “Hopefully we come out swinging again and get a championship here in Aberdeen."
Right-hander Peter Van Loon (11-4, 3.25 ERA) will start tonight’s league championship deciding game for Aberdeen. In a must-win Game 2 of the league semifinals, he allowed one run over five innings versus Brooklyn.