An evening in Asheville: the IronBirds escape with a 3-2 win over the Tourists in minor league play
On Friday, June 18th, just as the fans of the game of baseball are able to return to full capacity (in North Carolina), we're able to make a visit to enjoy the grand old game. Our time in Asheville, NC brings us to McCormick Field. The "old school" ballpark takes us to the home of The Asheville Tourists (now the High A affiliate of Major League Baseball's Houston Astros) as they host the Aberdeen IronBirds (the High H affiliate of Major League's Baseball Baltimore Orioles).
Prior to the start of the game, the Tourists' general manager Larry Hawkins takes time to discuss the upcoming season, including the team's first year affiliated with the Astros, along with the team's larger connection to the city.
Coming into today's game, the Tourists' starting pitcher R.J. Freure (1-3, 13.22 ERA) and Kyle Brnovick (3-1, 2.79 ERA) of the IronBirds get set to square off. Key players Matthew Barefoot (.313 batting average with 6 home-runs and 16 runs batted in), Alex McKenna (.308 batting average with 11 home-runs and 26 runs batted in), Joe Perez (.333 batting average), and Scott Schreiber (.295 batting average with 9 home-runs and 24 runs batted in) pace the Asheville offense; Andrew Daschbach (.253 batting average), Kyle Stowers (.254 batting average with 6 home-runs and 19 runs batted in), and Zach Watson (.258 batting average with 7 home runs, 20 runs batted in, and 12 stolen bases) do so for Aberdeen.
While on paper, it appears to be a pitching mismatch, during the first 4 innings, both pitchers keep their respective teams close. Fruere's control (6 strikeouts and 4 walks) and pitch count only allow him to throw 4 innings, but he allows 1 run on 3 hits. On the other hand, Brnovick tosses 5.1 innings, including no-hitting Asheville for 5-plus innings before being replaced (as he strikes out 5 batters and walks 1).
The IronBirds' 1-0 lead expands to 3-0 in the top of the 5th inning, as J.D. Mundy's 2-run blast over the right-field fence off Tyler Brown makes it a 3-0 game. Brown would close out the game allowing just those 2 runs over 5 inning (allowing 3 hits and having a 4/0 strikeout to walk ratio).
An RBI groundout by Wilyer Abreu in the bottom of the 7th would cut the lead to 3-1.
The 9th inning provides a thrilling end to the game. After a called 3rd strike to end the top of the 9th, Aberdeen's Zack Wilson would get ejected for arguing the call. In the bottom of the inning, the Tourists would mount a near-comeback. A single by Schrelber is followed by an Abreu RBI double, including a close play at the plate. However, Kyle Stowers would flag down Alex McKenna's sharply hit drive to right field to close out the game, leading to a 3-2 win for the IronBirds (click HERE for the complete box score). Ryan Conroy earns his first save; combined with Mundy's 2-4 effort (1 home-run and 2 RBI's) and Brnovick's solid pitching (his 4th win of the season), the as the team improves to 22-16 (and remains a 1/2 game out of first place in the North Division); the 2 hit efforts of Barefoot and Schreiber fall just short as Asheville carries a 17-22 record (and sits 9 1/2 games out of first place in the South Division) as the series resumes June 19th (at 6:05pm).
Captivating and competitive professional play. Add an intimate setting and you have the stage for a great way to enjoy the game.