Winning is contagious: O's Triple-A club snares crown

September 29th, 2023

On the same night the big league club clinched its first AL East crown since 2014 with its 100th victory of the season, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides put an exclamation mark on their winningest season by capturing the International League championship for the first time in 38 years.

Norfolk captured the IL's Governors' Cup by blanking the two-time defending champion Durham Bulls, 7-0, in the decisive Game 3 of the Championship Series in front of an enthralled home crowd at Harbor Park.

The crown, which marked the team’s first league title since 1985, was the early capper to the Orioles affiliate's first postseason appearance since 2015.

“Whether it's the big leagues or it's the Minor Leagues, [playoff runs] are tough to come by and you're gonna remember the guys next to you in this room,” Tides manager Buck Britton said.

A 90-59 record landed the Tides atop the league's full-season standings as well as in the club's record books for most wins in a regular season and the third-highest win percentage (.604).

Norfolk continued to roll in the playoffs with its star-studded lineup delivering in big moments. The Orioles' four MLB Top 100 prospects -- Jackson Holliday (No. 1), Colton Cowser (No. 14), Coby Mayo (No. 27) and Joey Ortiz (No. 50) -- batted in six of the team's seven runs in the finale.

Holliday, who ascended four levels of the Minors in his first full pro season, lofted his first career playoff home run in the eighth inning. The moonshot came off the bat at 102.1 mph off the bat, sneaking just over the wall in right field.

Mayo, Baltimore's fourth-ranked prospect, put together a four-hit night that included a two-run homer and a two-RBI double. After leading all of the Minor Leagues with 77 extra-base hits between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk in the regular season, the 2020 fourth-round pick posted an OPS of 1.888 in the three-game series.

Meanwhile, Ortiz (BAL No. 6) delivered another solid performance on both sides of the ball. The second baseman made a diving grab to snare a runner in the seventh after plating a run on a fielder's choice in the first.

While the cream of the Orioles prospect crop put numbers on the board, (BAL No. 11) and the Tides bullpen kept the Rays affiliate's bats silent. Starter Povich scattered three hits and three walks while striking out four over the first four frames to set the tone.

“It's been an incredible season,” Britton said. “But to have our young prospects deliver us the championship here at the end is special.”

The movement between Norfolk and its parent club paid off on both sides of the coin. Cowser and Ortiz made their MLB debuts and came back to the Tides, while , and settled in with Baltimore.

“The ultimate goal is development is to make sure we have guys that can go into the big leagues and help produce up there and that's what we've done,” Britton said. “There's a lot of guys here that have impacted our roster.”

And Norfolk's season isn't completed just yet. The team is headed to Las Vegas for the Triple-A National Championship Game. The Tides will face the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the winner of the Pacific Coast League, at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday to crown the overall winner for the highest rung of the Minors.