Although the first half ended with the Barons out of contention, Birmingham played with the utmost intensity on Sunday to claim their first divisional series victory of the year. Following Saturday's three-hit shutout, the Barons' offense direly needed a bounce-back game. Similarly, their starting pitcher on Sunday, Sean Burke, certainly
Although the first half ended with the Barons out of contention, Birmingham played with the utmost intensity on Sunday to claim their first divisional series victory of the year. Following Saturday's three-hit shutout, the Barons' offense direly needed a bounce-back game. Similarly, their starting pitcher on Sunday, Sean Burke, certainly needed one too. Last time around, in the series opener against the Pandas, Burke failed to record an out in the second inning and was pulled after allowing six runs.
Conversely, Rocket City sent Adam Seminaris to the hill, who too pitched the series opener. On Tuesday, Seminaris walked away with the win due to five innings of five-hit, one-run baseball. However, Birmingham racked up five hits and five runs in the first inning alone on Sunday. A bad hop in the infield led to the Barons' first run. Then, Moises Castillo poked his first career AA base hit to score two additional runners. Finally, following a wild pitch that scored Yoelqui Cespedes, Raudy Read ripped a single off the base of the left-field wall.
As a result, Sean Burke and the Barons exited the first inning with a five-run cushion. After smooth going through two, the Barons' young 6'6" righty ran into a bit of trouble in the third but managed the situation very well. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Burke escaped with just one run coming across for the Pandas via sacrifice flyout. Nonetheless, skipper Justin Jirschele decided three frames was enough for the 22-year-old from Sutton, Massachusetts.
Doing so became questionable, though, as Kaleb Roper replaced him and immediately faced trouble. After allowing one hit and one walk, a tough, high-bouncing grounder required quick decision-making from Castillo at short-stop. He knabbed the runner at second, but the throw to first bounced away from Alex Destino, allowing the Trash Pandas to score their second run of the game.
In the bottom half, DJ Burt and Jose Rodriguez combined for back-to-back base hits, followed by a double-steal. Sandwiched in the middle, Rocket City removed their starter, Adam Seminaris, after 3.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, and 3 strikeouts. His replacement would've finished the Barons off without harm, but a dropped-third strike forced Burt home.
The middle innings included some entertaining aspects but no runs. Most notably, in the fifth, the Barons cut down two runners at the plate courtesy of outfield assists from Tyler Neslony and Craig Dedelow. Neslony picked things up on the other side as well with a two-out RBI single in the sixth. Although Kaleb Roper is listed as a starting pitcher, his day out of the bullpen simply advanced the Barons' recent success from their relievers. Specifically, Roper ended with 4.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, and 3 SOs.
In the eighth, DJ Burt's baserunning aggressiveness earned Birmingham another insurance run thanks to a bloop single by Jose Rodriguez. This one-sided affair began early and only worsened as the game went on. Ultimately, Birmingham pulled off their first in-division series victory by a score of 8-2. Roper earned the win, just his second of the year, while Fraser Ellard and Edgar Navarro finished the final two innings. With that, the first half is officially over, as Birmingham finishes in last place in the south division. However, their strong push at the end forced them above Mississippi and gives them genuine momentum going into a second half they need to excel in if they hope to make the playoffs.