Dominant Relief Work From Akeel Morris Gives Cyclones’ Second Win

Many of the old-time baseball clichés are often true, and that’s why we keep using them. In Friday’s contest between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Aberdeen Ironbirds, “good things happened when the leadoff man got on base.”

The Ironbirds – the Single-A short-season affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – had leadoff hits in four of the first five innings to take a 2-0 lead, but the Cyclones caught fire late en route to a 4-2 victory at MCU Park. The Cyclones evened their season record to 2-2.

Cyclones’ righty reliever Akeel Morris entered the game with Brooklyn trailing by two runs in the top of the sixth. He proceeded to throw 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball, retiring the first seven hitters to face him in a row. Seven of the 11 outs he recorded were via the strikeout as he picked up his first win of the season.

“My mindset was just to pitch and give my team a chance to win,” Morris said. “I wanted to pound the strikezone and trust my stuff and let it do the rest.”

Cyclones get the win (Photo by Jim Mancari)
Cyclones get the win (Photo by Jim Mancari)

“Mo (Morris) is guy that earned his way on this team in spring training,” said Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly. “He establishes his fastball; he has a great change-up. Most of his strikeouts were on change-ups. Then he turned tables on them and got strikeouts with his fastball.”

From the sixth inning on, the Cyclones’ bats also woke up after recording just four hits in the first five innings. Brooklyn pounded eight hits over its final three frames for a total of 12 in the winning effort.

Each Cyclones’ starter, except first baseman Matt Oberste, had at least one hit.

“We hit the ball good,” Donnelly said. “It was nice to see us actually score some runs and get some RBIs. I think we had four RBIs going into tonight. We killed them tonight getting three. It’s nice to see.”

Dominican lefty Carlos Valdez made his first start of the season for the Cyclones just five days after being released from the hospital with chest pain. Donnelly was impressed by his 70-pitch gutsy performance to keep the team in the game in order for the Cyclones to eventually mount their comeback.

The Ironbirds hit some balls hard against Valdez, but for the most part, he was able to limit the damage.

Morris then came in firing, surrendering only a cheap infield hit. He recorded the first two outs in the ninth inning but then walked a batter, forcing Donnelly from the dugout. Lefty John Mincone entered the game to pick up he final out and his second consecutive save.

A bird's eye view of an Akeel Morris delivery (Photo by Jim Mancari)
A bird’s eye view of an Akeel Morris delivery (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The Cyclones got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, when third baseman Anthony Chavez laced a double into the left center field gap off Ironbirds’ starter Steven Brault. Recently-signed ninth-round draft pick and former University of Michigan center fielder Patrick Biondi then singled to center. With Janser Severino on the hill, Cyclones’ second baseman L.J. Mazzilli doubled right over the first base bag to plate Brooklyn’s first run. A passed ball two batters later tied the game at two.

The theme of scoring the leadoff man continued in the bottom of the seventh, when designated hitter Alex Sanchez singled to right. With two out, Chavez also single to put runners on the corners for Biondi.

Biondi did not waste any time as he lined the first pitch from Severino over the shortstop’s head to drive in the go-ahead run.

“I was just looking for a pitch up in the strikezone,” Biondi. “I got fastball out over the plate and put a good swing on it. I knew with first and third he (Severino) would want to throw a strike and get ahead, so I was just looking for something I could drive.”
Mazzilli later walked with the bases loaded, leading to an insurance run.

The second straight win for the Cyclones moves them to 73-38 all-time against the Ironbirds since the latter’s inception as a franchise in 2002. Aberdeen is now 0-4 this season.

The Cyclones look for the sweep against the Ironbirds Saturday evening at MCU Park. Righty Seth Lugo takes the hill for Brooklyn.

Click here to view to complete box score from this game.


About Jim Mancari 255 Articles
Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He earned a Master's degree in journalism from Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Be sure to visit