TROY, NY - The Tri-City ValleyCats advanced to a second straight New York-Penn League Championship with a 3-0 win over the Aberdeen IronBirds Saturday night.
ValleyCats starter Kyle Westwood and IronBirds starter Hunter Harvey squared off in a pitchers' duel at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, with both pitchers putting up goose eggs throughout the entire night.
Westwood pitched into trouble a few times in his seven innings of work. In the top of the first the IronBirds hit back-to-back singles with one out to put runners on the corners. Connor Beirfeldt, the team leader in RBI in the regular season, grounded into a double play to end the top of the first frame.
Aberdeen collected another pair of singles in the fifth, but again had nothing to show for it by the end of the inning.
Westwood had the most trouble in the seventh. The ValleyCats right-hander plunked Austin Wynns and allowed a double to Jeff Kemp to put runners on second and third with nobody out.
'Cats Manager Ed Romero decided to bring the infield in to cut down a run at home. Third baseman Federico Castagnini hit a sharp groundball to short and was promptly gunned down by Chan Moon for out number one.
With one out and runners on second and third still, Romero called for the intentional walk to load the bases. IronBirds Manager Matt Merullo sent up Tanner Rust to pinch hit against Westwood, and Rust hit into an inning-ending double play to end the threat.
"I knew if I kept the ball down I could get some ground balls," said Westwood. "My defense did a great job for me today, and I needed them."
Westwood pitched seven scoreless innings to notch his first victory of the playoffs. He allowed five hits, one walk, and struck out three.
Tri-City collected the first runs of the ball game in the bottom of the seventh. Right fielder Ronnie Mitchell hit a double into the left field corner, and would advance to third when Bierfeldt missed the cutoff man on the throw. After a Yonathan Mejia strikeout, Jon Kemmer lined a 3-0 pitch into left field to score the first run of the game. Kemmer would score from second base on Conrad Gregor's RBI single to give the ValleyCats a two-run pad.
"I was hoping to get a good swing," said Kemmer. "You don't get the green light too often 3-0 and I was pretty excited to get it."
"The way he was pitching me before, I wasn't really expecting a fastball. It's why I was a little late on that one. [Severino] had great offspeed stuff. I just took advantage of what he gave me," continued Kemmer.
Gonzalo Sanudo entered the game in the eighth inning to try and end Aberdeen's first playoff appearance. The "San Man" retired all six batters he faced to collect his second save of the 2013 postseason.
Tri-City tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Tyler White singled home Ryan Dineen.
The 'Cats held the 'Birds scoreless for the entire series. Michael Feliz, Chris Munnelly, Westwood, and Sanudo combined to pitch the equivalent of an 18-inning shutout.
"Our pitching has been phenomenal," said Manager Ed Romero. "We held them scoreless for two games." "I am very happy and very proud of these guys," Romero added.
The ValleyCats will hold a workout, 2pm at "The Joe" on Sunday, as they await the winner of the Jamestown-State College series.
If the Jammers win the series, then the 'Cats will travel to Russell Diethrick Park for game one before returning to "The Joe" for game two (and possibly three). If the Spikes win, then the 'Cats will play game one of the New York-Penn League Championship Series at home before heading down to State College for the rest of the series.
Tickets are still available on tcvalleycats.com or by calling 518-629-CATS.