TROY - If no one told them life was going to be this way, Friday night was a rude awakening for the SmellyCats. Tri-City (32-38) dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to the Aberdeen IronBirds (39-31) at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, ending their chances at a playoff berth.
The contest featured a promising start for the 'Cats, who will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Brandon Bielak was spectacular in his four innings, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced. Bielak got the no-decision, but lowered his team-leading ERA from 1.07 to 0.92. Ian Hardman, who was added to the roster Friday morning from Greeneville, pitched a clean inning in relief.
Tri-City, which is now 1-12 in the series with runners in scoring position, struck first in the bottom of the fifth. After leadoff singles from Kyle Davis and Jake Meyers, Davis scored on a Bryan De La Cruz force out, and Gabriel Bracamonte notched an RBI hit, driving in Meyers.
The IronBirds responded with three runs in the 7th inning off of Corbin Martin (BS, 1), who allowed three runs in a game for the first time this season. Ryan Ripken, Trevor Craport, and Garrett Copeland all ripped hits, and after a groundout, Jaylen Ferguson smoked a double off of Colton Shaver's glove at first to score the go-ahead run.
Meyers and the 'Cats responded almost immediately. In the bottom of the 7th, Meyers drew a one out walk, reached second and third on a throwing error, and scored on a De La Cruz sacrifice fly to tie the score at 3 runs apiece. Meyers finished the night 2-2 with two singles, two walks, and two runs scored.
In the bottom of the 8th, the SmellyCats got a huge boost of momentum when Michael Papierski (5) drove a solo shot over the wall in left field to put the 'Cats up 4-3.
Aberdeen got a leadoff walk from Garrett Copeland in the top of the 9th, and Zach Jarrett launched a two-run, go-ahead home run to give the 'Birds the eventual 5-4 win.
Ben Smith (BS, 2) (7-4) took the loss for Tri-City, while Zack Muckenhirn (BS, 1) (1-1) earned the win in relief. Brenan Hanifee received the no-decision despite a six inning, two-run quality start.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS: The IronBirds were previously 1-31 when trailing in the 9th inning before tonight's win. Aberdeen improves to 5-3 against the 'Cats with one game left in the season series.
Andy Pineda swiped his 18th stolen base on the year, and is now five steals behind Ben Orloff and Jordan Parraz, who are tied for the 'Cats single season lead.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: The 'Cats defense looked sharp all night, and turned two inning-ending double plays. In the 5th, Davis fielded a ground ball while standing on second base, and tossed onto first to complete the twin-killing. In the 8th, after a leadoff base hit from Mason McCoy, 'Cats SS Jonathan Arauz made a slick grab to his left, sprinting across the second base bag while throwing to first.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The SmellyCats and Williamsport Crosscutters were both eliminated Friday, joining the Brooklyn Cyclones, Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, and Lowell Spinners. All three divisions are still in a tight race for first place: Vermont, Staten Island, and Mahoning Valley leading their respective divisions with six games left on the schedule.
UP NEXT: The series finale and final game of the season between Aberdeen and Tri-City kicks off tomorrow night, Saturday, September 2, with first pitch scheduled for 7:00. Two lefties will square off for the second time in the series, with Carlos Hiraldo (1-6, 7.19 ERA) on the mound for the 'Cats, and Zac Lowther (2-1, 1.62 ERA) for the IronBirds.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.