Ripken Stadium hosted its first ever playoff game last night as the IronBirds faced off against the Tri-City ValleyCats, an affiliate of the Houston Astros. The game was a classic pitchers' duel, with Sebastian Vader taking the mound for the IronBirds against Michael Feliz of the ValleyCats.
Vader was outstanding. The 21 year old pitched into the ninth inning and gave up just four singles and a double, and he didn't walk any. He didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, when he gave up a leadoff double but stranded the runner at third. Of his eight full innings, five were 1-2-3. Vader has been with the IronBirds for two seasons and he's done quite well for himself. I expect he'll be promoted next year.
Unfortunately for the IronBirds, Feliz was pitching just as well for the ValleyCats. He held the IronBirds to just three hits (all singles) over his seven innings pitched and struck out eight.
The game was scoreless going into the top of the ninth inning and, with one out, Vader was lifted from the game for relief pitcher Donnie Hart. Hart was in trouble immediately and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Conrad Gregor, which sounds like a great name for a movie villain. That was the only run given up, but it was enough.
The IronBirds tried to rally in the ninth but couldn't make anything happen. Conor Bierfeldt singled with one out but was then thrown out trying to steal second base. The batter behind him, Austin Wynns, then singled to make the caught stealing even more important. With two outs, pinch hitter Ronarsy Ledesma struck out to end the game.
Game two of this best-of-three series will be played tonight in Tri-City. Hunter Harvey, the O's first-round pick from this year's draft, will make the start for the IronBirds.