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Bowling Green blanks Aberdeen to win SAL title

Auer delivers key double; four pitchers combine in Game 3 shutout
September 22, 2022

Championship Series

Championship Series

Sept. 21

Hot Rods 4, IronBirds 0
For the second year in a row, the Bowling Green Hot Rods have taken home a title.

The Rays’ High-A affiliate bounced back from a big defeat in Game 2 and shut down the powerful Aberdeen offense in a decisive Game 3 to claim the South Atlantic League crown. It’s the club’s third league title in the past five years.

"We didn't let our locker room get quiet after [Game 2] at all," Hot Rods manager Jeff Smith said. "We made it this far, it's a huge honor to play in the last game of the season. Not many teams get to play that very last day, and we were able to do that and get that last victory. They came out really wanting it." Full story »

Sept. 20

IronBirds 13, Hot Rods 6
Considerable talent has traveled through the Aberdeen clubhouse throughout the 2022 season, some of it manifesting itself up with the big league Orioles. With the season on the line, Baltimore’s High-A affiliate brought the lumber and plated 13 runs while batting 7-for-11 with runners in scoring position to force a decisive Game 3 against Bowling Green in the South Atlantic League Finals.

The IronBirds’ current iteration features stalwarts from the organization’s 2022 Draft class, many of whom were front and center from the jump: Jud Fabian (‘22 Competitive Balance-B pick) plated the game’s first run with a knock in the first inning, before Dylan Beavers (‘22 first-round pick) walloped a three-run shot in the second.

But the decisive blow came from another former top pick: the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect, Heston Kjerstad. The second overall pick in the 2020 Draft delivered his lone hit of the first two games of the Championship Series in the fourth, clearing the bases with his third professional triple.

After faltering late in Game 1, Aberdeen continued to pile on late. Another 2022 Draft selection, Max Wagner (second round), added a two-RBI double in the sixth. Five different IronBirds enjoyed multi-RBI performances, including the key quartet of Beavers, Fabian, Kjerstad and Wagner.

The Hot Rods were stymied in key situations, going just 1-for-12 with men in scoring position. The two teams will meet in a winner-take-all Game 3 with Bowling Green seeking a second consecutive crown while Aberdeen looks to earn its first league title since 1983. Box score »

Sept. 18

Hot Rods 5, IronBirds 3
In the age of launch angles and exit velocities, there are still times when it doesn't take much to get the job done.

In the bottom of the eighth inning of the opener of the best-of-3 South Atlantic League Championship Series, with runners on second and third and the Aberdeen infielders playing in, Tampa Bay prospect Logan Driscoll delivered a grounder hit sharply enough to get into right field for a two-run single. It made all the difference.

Dillon Paulson belted a two-run homer to get Bowling Green on the board in the first, and 13th-ranked Rays prospect Mason Auer went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and an outfield assist to home plate.

Antonio Menendez struck out four and permitted a walk and a hit over three scoreless frames out of the Hot Rods bullpen to pick up the win.

Jud Fabian, the Orioles' No. 23 prospect, homered for the IronBirds. Box score »


Sept. 16

IronBirds 5, Cyclones 4
On contact, it looked like a routine pop-up that would end the fifth inning and give Brooklyn a chance in a tie game the following frame. Instead, Heston Kjerstad ended up on second base with a two-run double, giving Aberdeen a lead it never relinquished.

The IronBirds held off a Cyclones comeback to take the decisive Game 3 of the SAL semifinals and claim a spot in the league championship series. Aberdeen, formerly a member of the New York-Penn League, will play for its first title since becoming an Orioles affiliate in 2002.

Brooklyn jumped on the board first, scoring a run on a double from Stanley Consuegra in the top of the fourth. But TT Bowens, who homered in the first inning of Game 2, got it back with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the frame. Kjerstad's double, a wild pitch and another single from Bowens made it a 5-1 game after five.

The Cyclones began to chip away with the long ball, receiving dingers from Consuegra and Jose Peroza, but the comeback effort fell short. After a leadoff double in the ninth, Xavier Moore struck out a pair and induced a ground out to lock down the save. Box score

Hot Rods 7, Braves 1
There isn't an MVP Award handed out in the SAL semifinals, but Johan Lopez made as good of a case as anyone to bring home the fictitious hardware.

The 22-year-old shortstop belted a pair of home runs to lift Bowling Green to the SAL Championship Series, concluding an impressive two-game turnaround after Rome claimed the semifinal series opener. Lopez hit .583 (7-for-12) with four extra-base hits and six RBIs in the three games, helping the Hot Rods to outscore the Braves 17-2 over the final two contests.

In the clincher, Lopez's two-run homer in the second inning gave Bowling Green the early lead, though Rome's Brandol Mezquita cut into it with a solo blast in the third. The close game was short-lived, as Dillon Paulson connected on a grand slam in the fourth inning, while Lopez added his second dinger of the game in the seventh for good measure.

Ben Peoples, who only made two starts at the High-A level at the end of the regular season, turned in a strong start for the Rays affiliate, allowing just one run in 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts. The Hot Rods will attempt to claim their second consecutive league title, after having won the High-A East in 2021. Box score

Sept. 15

Hot Rods 10, Braves 1
It was Bowling Green's night from the words "Play ball."

The Hot Rods used two home runs in the first inning, another in the second and one more in the fourth to jump out to an early 7-0 lead in Game 2 of the league semifinals. They added a three-run eighth for good measure, forcing a decisive Game 3 with a commanding win.

Bowling Green got contributions up and down the lineup, with no player contributing more than two RBIs, but Mason Auer made his impact felt at the top of the lineup. The No. 13 Rays prospect, who hit 15 home runs across two levels during the regular season, belted his first of the playoffs, also recording a pair of singles and a stolen base.

Hod Rods starter Anthony Molina turned in a strong outing, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. The 20-year-old had a 2.94 ERA in 26 High-A appearances (seven starts) during the regular season. Box score

IronBirds 6, Cyclones 1
Dominic Hamel might have seemed immune to the long ball since his late May promotion to High-A, but no one told that to TT Bowens.

The Cyclones starter, who had not given up a home run in 55 2/3 innings since his promotion, served up a two-run dinger to the Orioles prospect in the bottom of the first inning, jump-starting the IronBirds offense. Aberdeen's pitching staff was up to the task, with Peter Van Loon and Connor Gillispie combining for 11 strikeouts to send the series to Game 3.

The IronBirds ultimately scored five off of Hamel, chasing the Mets' No. 12 prospect after four innings. Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles' No. 10 prospect, doubled in a run in the third and Jud Fabian, Baltimore's No. 23 prospect, brought in another on a groundout.

Brooklyn got a run back in the fifth on a solo home run by William Lugo but Billy Cook singled in Bowens in the seventh to push the lead back to five. Gillispie earned the save with six strikeouts over four scoreless frames. Box score

Sept. 13

Cyclones 8, IronBirds 1
At an age when many are starting their first year in college, Alex Ramirez is playing postseason baseball. And he's doing it quite well.

The No. 4 Mets prospect singled three times and scored three runs to help lead Brooklyn to an 8-1 win over Aberdeen in the opening game of the South Atlantic League semifinals from Maimonides Park. The Cyclones will have an opportunity to close out the best-of-3 series when it shifts to Aberdeen on Thursday.

While Ramirez provided consistent offensive pressure for Brooklyn, it was the power that ultimately lifted the club to victory. Matt Rudick, Joe Suozzi and Jose Peroza all left the yard, accounting for half of Brooklyn's runs. The Cyclones collected 11 hits in the contest, three by Peroza, who had three RBIs.

Luis Moreno allowed a run and struck out seven over six innings to pick up Brooklyn's first postseason win since it claimed the New York-Penn League title in 2019.

Jud Fabian provided the lone offense for Aberdeen with a solo homer. The No. 23 Orioles prospect and 2022 67th overall Draft pick had not homered since his promotion to the IronBirds on Aug. 30.

Braves 3, Hot Rods 2 (10 innings)
No hits for 6 1/3 innings? No problem.

Despite being held hitless until the seventh, Rome eked out a 3-2 win over visiting Bowling Green in 10 innings to take a 1-0 series lead in the other Sally League semifinals matchup. Logan Workman tossed five hitless frames for the Hot Rods while Royber Salinas countered with 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings for the Braves.

Rome scored the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 10th on a throwing error by Bowling Green second baseman Abiezel Ramirez. It was a finish unbefitting what had been a crisply played and well-pitched contest.

Workman kept the Braves off balance during his five frames, striking out seven and surrendering two walks. Antonio Menendez took the no-hit bid into the seventh before Keshawn Ogans broke it up with a bunt single. It was just one of three hits Rome collected on the night, the big one coming in the eighth on a two-out, two-run knock by Geraldo Quintero.

Although he didn't factor into the decision, Salinas -- the No. 21 Braves prospect -- was overpowering during his outing. The 21-year-old led the organization with 175 strikeouts in 109 innings during the regular season, while limiting the opposition to a .187 average across 25 starts.

How they got there

Sept. 9

Brooklyn Cyclones

Jeffrey Colon's stellar outing on the mound and Joe Suozzi's late-inning heroics with the bat led the Brooklyn to a 3-0 win over Winston-Salem, bringing the Cyclones' magic number down to one. Minutes later, Hudson Valley fell to Wilmington, ensuring the North Division second-half title was theirs.

Colon held the Dash off the scoreboard with, given the circumstances, the game of his career. The 22-year-old, enjoying a breakout season in his fourth year as a pro, worked seven innings for the first time in his career and struck out eight while scattering three hits. While Colon did his job, the Brooklyn bats were equally absent -- until Suozzi stepped to the plate in the top of seventh.

Suozzi, who grew up a short drive from Maimonides Park on Long Island, ensured a hero's welcome when the Cyclones return home from their road trip. The 24-year-old fell behind 0-2, worked the count back even and then blasted his eighth home run to put Brooklyn in front. Alex Ramirez and Jose Peroza added RBI singles later in the frame to hand a 3-0 lead to Daison Acosta, who worked the final two innings to lock down his team-leading 10th save.

The Cyclones won its first outright league championship in 2019, claiming the last New York-Penn League crown. Brooklyn opens this year's title chase with a best-of-three series against the Aberdeen IronBirds, the first-half division winner.

Rome Braves

The phrase "Rome wasn't built in a day" surely was in reference to the Braves' second-half exploits. The Atlanta affiliate rode the high of a 14-3 stretch and endured a 3-10 spell to ultimately clinch its third division title since the franchise's inception in 2003.

Though Rome's ticket was officially punched when Asheville fell to Greenville, there was cause for celebration minutes later when the Braves held on for a 5-4 win over Hickory, clinching the South Division second-half crown. J.J. Niekro allowed one run over five strong innings and he was helped out by a five-run fourth inning, which was punctuated by a grand slam from Kadon Morton, his first home run at the High-A level.

Rome needed five relievers to record the final 12 outs, and it wasn't without a scare. Thomas Saggese connected on a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth to cut Hickory's deficit to one, and the Crawdads put two more on base before Austin Smith recorded the final out and his 13th save.

June 21

Bowling Green Hot Rods

The Hot Rods are ... well, hot. Bowling Green rattled off four straight wins to capture back-to-back division titles and its third in the last four seasons. The Rays' High-A affiliate celebrated their South Division first-half crown after beating Greenville, 4-0, behind five innings of one-hit ball from starter Mason Montgomery, who matched a franchise record with 12 strikeouts.

A shutout in the clincher was appropriate for a Bowling Green squad that was led by its pitching staff. The Hot Rods stand second in the South Atlantic League with a 3.55 ERA, trailing only the Aberdeen IronBirds -- who clinched the North Division -- with a 1.26 WHIP. The offense has held its own as well, ranking fifth in the league in batting average (.252) and slugging percentage (.408). Gameday box score

June 15

Aberdeen IronBirds

The IronBirds’ clinch of the North Division first-half title came courtesy of their 40th win of the season, 11 more than any other team in the division. Aberdeen picked up its 10th win in 12 matchups with Jersey Shore, taking down the BlueClaws, 3-2.

The Orioles affiliate has had six winning streaks of four games or longer this season, first reaching 10 games over .500 on April 30 at 15-5 and hitting 20 games over on June 9 at 37-17. The pitching staff has led the way with a combined 3.63 ERA, second-best in the league. Gameday box score