By: Michael Marcantonini
The Aberdeen IronBirds wrapped up their 2023 season with a six-game sweep of the Greenville Drive this past Tuesday through Sunday, September 5-10, in front of energized crowds at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium. The IronBirds outscored the Drive 36-21 in the series and finished the season
By: Michael Marcantonini
The Aberdeen IronBirds wrapped up their 2023 season with a six-game sweep of the Greenville Drive this past Tuesday through Sunday, September 5-10, in front of energized crowds at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium. The IronBirds outscored the Drive 36-21 in the series and finished the season 66-63, clinching their second straight winning season.
The IronBirds brought home an 11-7 win in Game 1, which turned out to be the highest-scoring game of the series. The Birds scored nine runs over their final three trips to the plate, including six runs in the sixth, and ripped six extra-base hits. Mac Horvath hit two go-ahead home runs in his High-A debut, Elio Prado added a homer and a triple, and Juan Nunez fired five innings of one-run ball in his longest outing with Aberdeen.
The Birds scored all five of their runs in the first three innings of Game 2 and held on to win, 5-3. Samuel Basallo went 2-for-3 with a 2-run HR and three RBI and Matthew Etzel was 3-for-4 with three singles to pace the offense. Seth Johnson and Daniel Lloyd combined to carry a no-hitter through 5.2 innings and Edgar Portes earned his first High-A save with a scoreless ninth. The Birds also went 5/5 in stolen base attempts.
Game 3 got dicey in the late innings as the Drive erased a four-run deficit in the top of the ninth, but the IronBirds came right back to win it in the bottom of the frame. On an 0-2, 2-out pitch, Basallo smacked a walkoff, solo homer to right field to give the Birds their ninth walkoff win of the season. Basallo also had an RBI single and an RBI double in the game, and Aberdeen had five hits with runners in scoring position. On the pitching side, Zach Peek tossed four no-hit innings with six strikeouts and Carson Carter added three punchouts in two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Aberdeen kept its hot streak going with a 3-0 win in a rain-shortened Game 4 behind a dominant outing from Kyle Virbitsky. In his final start of the season, the IronBirds’ 2023 Team MVP gave up just one hit in six innings and tied his season high with eight strikeouts. It was Virbitsky’s team-high third time going at least six innings and he reached 100 strikeouts on the season with his fifth punchout of the night. Creed Willems got the Birds on the board with a solo homer and Ryan Higgins added an RBI double in the first, and Isaac De Leon tacked on an RBI triple in the sixth.
The Birds made it a season-best five straight home wins with a 7-3 win in Game 5, a game in which they scored in six of their eight innings at the plate and never trailed. Frederick Bencosme went 3-for-4, scored four runs, and hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth. Basallo hit a home run in his third straight game and Higgins picked up two more hits and RBI each.
The good vibes continued for the IronBirds in the series and season finale. Both the Birds and the Drive had the bats going early and were tied, 3-3, after four innings, when the game turned into a pitcher’s duel. In his second outing of the series, Nunez pitched four shutout innings from the fifth through the eighth, and Reese Sharp tossed a scoreless top of the ninth to send the Birds into the home half needing just one run to win. Prado worked a leadoff walk, Higgins bunted him to second, De Leon followed with a single, then with one out and Enrique Bradfield Jr. at the plate, Prado dashed for the plate on a wild pitch that bounced out in front of the plate, and he scored the winning run. It was the IronBirds’ 10th walkoff win and their first six-game sweep, which doubled as a season-long six-game winning streak to end the year.
Basallo finished the week 14-for-28 with five extra-base hits and seven RBI. The 19-year-old rising star earned South Atlantic League Player of the Week honors and was promoted to Double-A Bowie. IronBirds right-handed pitcher Seth Johnson was also promoted to Double-A.
For information on the 2024 season schedule and tickets, as well as offseason events at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, keep an eye on ironbirdsbaseball.com and monitor the IronBirds’ social media accounts.