Sebastian Vader wanted to attack opposing hitters on Wednesday night, but it took a nifty bit of self-protection to get him through the first inning. He was able to take it from there.
After turning a line drive comebacker into a triple play to end the opening frame, the Orioles prospect went on to pitch a career-high 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball as short-season Aberdeen defeated Mahoning Valley, 2-0.
Vader allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two. The 2010 18th-round Draft pick was trying to be more efficient after completing four innings (three runs, four hits) in his last start on Sunday against Vermont. He accomplished just that, thanks in part to 14 groundouts.
The 21-year-old right-hander was nearly undone in the first, however.
Joel Mejia opened the game with a bunt single and Claudio Bautista followed with a base hit that put runners on first and second before Scrappers shortstop Paul Hendrix worked the count full.
"There was no way I was walking the three-hitter," Vader said. "It was 3-2 and I decided to challenge him as much as I could. I gave him a pitch right there and he hit a shot right at me."
Vader (3-3), whose momentum had him falling toward first base, immediately leaned back when the ball came off the bat. His glove hand shot from his left hip up toward his face and, as he fell backward, he snagged the ball to the right of his head, holding on as he fell on his right side.
"I remember the ball coming at my face," he said. "I was halfway to the ground when I caught the ball. Once I was on the ground, I looked up and the guy was at third, and I had to hurry up and fire to second."
Vader got the ball to shortstop Jared Breen, who easily doubled up Mejia at second base, then zipped the ball to first to retire Bautista and complete the first triple play in IronBirds history.
Vader retired the next eight batters before Hendrix singled with two outs in the fourth and Nellie Rodriguez doubled. But the runners were stranded as Manuel Boscan grounded out to third.
No other Scrapper got past second base against Vader. The California native retired Joel Mejia on a ground ball to third to start the ninth, then walked Bautista and gave way to Donnie Hart, who recorded the final two outs for his first professional save.
For Vader, the outing eclipsed an eight-inning scoreless effort on June 22 against Brooklyn for his longest in the Minor Leagues. The common denominator in both outings was his mental approach, something that had wavered in his last start and led him to leave too many balls up in the strike zone.
"When I get into a good tempo, my mechanics get better on their own," he said. "I don't want to have to think too much. When I'm thinking, I get lost and erratic. I need to be working fast and attacking."
Scrappers starter Luis Lugo matched Vader for five innings, limiting Aberdeen to three hits. The IronBirds broke through for an unearned run in the seventh as Trey Mancini singled with one out and raced home on an error by Hendrix at shortstop. Rehabbing catcher Steve Clevenger singled in an insurance run in the eighth.