ABERDEEN, Md. — Aberdeen pitcher Kyle Brnovich didn’t give the Wilmington Blue Rocks any time to make adjustments.
Brnovich worked quickly and got in front of the hitters by pounding the strike zone.
His defense was solid behind him, especially shortstop Joey Ortiz, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft, who came up with a couple of deft putouts, in the IronBirds’ 5-1 victory over Wilmington, a Washington Nationals affiliate on Tuesday night. It was the first home game for Aberdeen as a full-season Orioles’ affiliate.
From 2002-2019, the IronBirds played in the New York-Penn League, a short season league that played from mid-June through Labor Day. As part of the minor league’s reorganization, Aberdeen replaced Frederick as the Orioles’ High-A affiliate.
Before the game, there was a moment of silence to honor Vi Ripken, the mother of Cal Ripken Jr., the team’s founding owner, and Bill Ripken, the executive vice president. Vi Ripken, who regularly attended IronBirds games, died in February at 82.
Brnovich allowed one run on two hits with six strikeouts and one walk in five innings. He improved to 2-0 and his ERA is 1.15.
Brnovich, who was acquired by the Orioles along with right-handed pitchers Kyle Bradish, Isaac Mattson, and Zach Peek from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Dylan Bundy in December 2019, was one of several bright spots for the IronBirds in the home opener.
Leftfielder Kyle Stowers went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs for Aberdeen (9-4).
Designated hitter Shayne Fontana, rightfielder Johnny Rizer, second baseman Adam Hall and Ortiz had two hits apiece for Aberdeen.
Rizer, who was selected by the Orioles in the seventh round of the 2019 player draft, leads the club in hitting with a .367 average with two homers and five RBIs in 30 at-bats.
The IronBirds took a 1-0 lead when Stowers lined a single to right field off Cade Cavalli, who was a first-round pick (22nd overall) by the Nationals in 2020 from Oklahoma.
Stowers, a Stanford graduate who’s 23rd on the Orioles prospect list, according to MLB.com, is batting .220 and has 11 RBIs in 41 at-bats.
Aberdeen took a 2-0 leadoff Cavalli (0-1) on Stowers’ single up the middle that scored Rizer, who stole second.
Brnovich didn’t allow a hit until a one-out double to Gage Canning, a fifth-round pick of the Nationals, in the fifth. Jake All followed with another double to the same spot in right field, cutting Aberdeen’s margin to 2-1.
Brnovich has a strong pedigree and finished his collegiate career at Elon second all-time in strikeouts in Colonial Athletic Association history with 360, trailing only Old Dominion University right-handed pitcher Justin Verlander, who struck out 427 batters from 2002-04.
Aberdeen responded in the bottom half when Ortiz bounced an RBI double over the third-base line and Stowers picked up his third RBI with a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
The IronBirds finished their scoring when Rizer grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Hall, the Orioles’ 11th ranked prospect.
Wilmington scored twice in the ninth off Kade Strowd.
Morgan McSweeney picked up the save by retiring the only batter he faced.