Ezequiel Duran got one extra chance to make history and didn’t let it pass him by.
“He’s steadily having a great year for us,” Hudson Valley manager Dan Fiorito said. “I think the biggest thing for him is controlling the zone. He knows this. When he’s swinging at his pitches, he’s as special of a hitter as there is in this league right now. It’s just a matter of getting his pitch and not chasing balls outside the zone.”
Duran got the big blast on his monster night out of the way in the first inning when he led off with a first-pitch homer to right field. The 22-year-old then singled to left in the third and, after grounding out in the fourth inning, drove a double to left in the sixth.
Following a walk in the eighth inning, the shortstop’s biggest moment arrived. The Renegades and IronBirds exited regulation tied at 6-6 and went through the 10th inning with the deadlock intact despite the automatic runner at second.
That changed in a wild 11th. Oliver Dunn walked to lead off the frame for Hudson Valley, and Kyle MacDonald came through with an RBI single to center to give the visitors the lead.
With two on, Duran got hold of the fifth pitch he saw from Aberdeen’s Morgan McSweeney and crushed it to left-center. With Dunn and MacDonald scoring easily, Duran chugged for third. The relay throw from Aberdeen shortstop Gunnar Henderson overshot the third base bag and sailed out of play, enabling Duran to score the eventual game-winning run.
“It was definitely a special night for him,” Fiorito said. “The way he started the game and finished it, first pitch of the game drove a home run to right-center field, he kind of showed his ability to hit the ball to all fields and drive the ball out of the park to right. In that last inning, runners on second and third up a run in extras, two huge runs out there, he drives a triple to left-center field. Just to see him running the bases and cap the night off for us was awesome."
Aberdeen mounted a rally in the bottom of the 11th, scoring three runs of its own with Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect Henderson driving in one, but Hudson Valley held on.
The performance was Duran’s second four-hit game of the season, matching an effort from May 16 also against Aberdeen.
“Having him in the leadoff hole is awesome because yeah, he can start the game for us, but he’s a dynamic player all around,” Fiorito said. “Being able to get him the at-bats whether it’s starting the inning with his ability to get on base and run but also having guys on base like we saw late in the game, he’s a great run producer with his ability to drive the baseball. No matter what spots he comes up in, it’s awesome to have him up there.”
Duran has been one of the engineers in a stellar run for Hudson Valley’s offense over the last week. The Renegades have won six straight games since dropping four of five and have not scored fewer than six runs in any of their wins. Over the first three games of this six-game series at Aberdeen, Hudson Valley has outscored its host 37-10.
“When guys are going up there hitting the ball hard and swinging at good pitches, I think everybody just wants to go up there and do the same,” the manager added. “Hitting in the game brings so much energy to the lineup and to the team, guys want to be up there in those spots and pass the torch to the next guy.”