WILMINGTON, Del. -- The Frederick Keys are well aware of the fact that last year, the visiting team won all three games in the Carolina League North Division championship series.
After all, the Keys were the visitors in the last two games at Wilmington, moving on to the Mills Cup Finals against the eventual champion Kinston Indians.
Nevertheless, they have to feel pretty good about coming into Frawley Stadium on Wednesday and not just beating the host Blue Rocks, 9-2, but pounding out 17 hits and chasing Carolina League Pitcher of the Year Rowdy Hardy after 5 2/3 innings.
"We're very happy to leave here 1-0," said Keys manager Tommy Thompson. "We know we still have a lot of work to do because they are loaded with pitching. But I really like the way our total team went about their business tonight."
Hardy, who was 15-5 with a 2.48 ERA during the season and 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA against the Keys, surrendered a season-high 13 hits (his previous high had been 11) and allowed seven runs -- five earned.
"Rowdy had beaten us, had dominated us, four games in a row," Thompson noted. "He's very consistent, he throws strikes, so our hitters moved up on the plate to try to take some of that away from him tonight."
The Keys hitters waited out the southpaw sidewinder, showing patience at the plate that allowed them to hit his floaters consistently, if not always authoritatively.
And while Frederick pecked away at Hardy, the Keys' starter, Brad Bergesen, turned in an outstanding performance to send his team home needing just one more win in the best-of-3 series.
Bergesen, who was 3-6 with a 5.75 ERA since joining the team from Class A Delmarva, muddled through a two-run second inning, then settled down to retire 11 in a row at one point. In seven innings, he allowed two runs on six hits. And while he didn't strike out anyone, he coaxed 14 groundouts.
"He had one bad inning but came back very impressively," said Thompson, who also credited catcher Zach Dillon. "His last game here was a good one and he duplicated that, which can be tough to do."
At the plate, the Keys got three-hit games from left fielder Chris Amador, All-Star third baseman Ryan Finan and center fielder Kennard Jones, who singled, doubled and tripled.
Amador, who drove in a pair of runs, was a midseason acquisition from the free-agent pool, signed by the Orioles after being released by the Cubs from Class A Advanced Daytona. In 45 games with the Keys, he hit .269 but batted just .150 in six games against Wilmington before Wednesday.
"He had a great night and has added a lot to the team with his speed, his bunting and his power," Thompson said.
Trailing, 2-1, Frederick jumped on Hardy for three runs in the third, paced by RBI singles by Finan and Pete Maestrales.
Hardy ran into trouble he could not escape in the sixth. Amador's two-run single highlighted another three-run inning that spelled the end of the left-hander's night and gave the Keys a commanding 7-2 lead.
Frederick added two more runs on wild pitches as the usually steady Wilmington staff struggled with control all night, including a three-wild pitch inning from reliever Russell Haltiwanger.
After the game, the Keys hopped onto their bus for the two-hour drive back to Frederick, where they will host the next game -- or two. The winner then hosts the opening two games of the best-of-5 Carolina League championships on Saturday and Sunday.
NOTES: In the top of the fifth, Finan drew a leadoff walk and Maestrales followed with a prolonged at-bat before hitting into a double play. Perhaps so much time had passed during Maestrales' at-bat that the Blue Rocks just assumed that another out had been made during that span, because they all trotted off the field toward the dugout with only two outs. Once order returned, 1B Mark Fleisher struck out, and this time they really could take their seats. ... These teams also faced each other for the North Division title last year, when Wilmington was a Boston Red Sox affiliate. In that series, the Blue Rocks had home-field advantage as first-half champions and sent Clay Buchholz, who had joined the team a few weeks earlier from Class A Greenville, to the mound in the opener. He struck out 10 in six innings for the win, but the Keys took the series as the visiting team won all three games. ... Frederick is looking for its third consecutive trip to the Mills Cup Finals after being swept by Kinston last year and beating the Indians for the title in 2005. Wilmington has gone to the playoffs 12 of the last 15 years but has not won a title this century. OK, so it was 1999.