26-11 final? 10-RBI and 3-HR games? Inside epic night for O's Triple-A squad

April 4th, 2024

A lot of Baltimore talent has come through Triple-A Norfolk over the past four years. Three overall No. 1s, among a dozen Top 100 prospects, have played for the Tides -- by far the most in the Minors.

But no previous team or game went quite like this one.

Norfolk beat Charlotte, 26-11 -- a final score that has never occurred before in AL/NL history -- as the Orioles affiliate set a franchise record in runs, homers (eight) and hits (29) on Wednesday night at Truist Field.

This level of offensive outburst is rarely seen at any level. It's the highest single-game output for an International League team since the Buffalo Bisons (27) on April 18, 2013, and the last Minor League team to surpass that scoring output was the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (29) on July 6, 2023.

Two particular performances stood out to an historic degree. MLB's No. 31 overall prospect Heston Kjerstad homered twice en route to a club-record 10 RBIs, and outfielder went deep three times and drove in seven as he also set a Norfolk mark with 44 career roundtrippers. For context, there have only been six instances in AL/NL history of teammates both having at least seven RBIs in the same game.

Of course, any game that scores more than three touchdowns worth of runs features big performances up and down the lineup. Baseball's top prospect, Jackson Holliday went 4-for-6 with five runs scored, two RBIs and two walks. Coby Mayo (MLB's No. 29) racked up five hits and fell a homer shy of the cycle. Seven players reached base at least four times, and two-thirds of the lineup ran their OPS above 1.000.

It's hard to believe, but Norfolk was trailing for a decent chunk of the game. The Knights took a 7-4 lead in the third, and the Tides clawed a pair of runs back in both the fourth and fifth. But then they really turned on the gas.

Behind homers from Stowers, David Bañuelos and Kjerstad, the Tides scored seven in the sixth and added five more in the seventh on another Stowers long ball, BAL No. 6 Connor Norby's walk and singles by Kjerstad and Mayo.

By this point, the Knights turned to a position player -- infielder Danny Mendick -- to close out the game, but Norfolk did not take it easy on him. Holliday added an RBI double before Kjerstad hit his record-setting grand slam in the eighth, and Peyton Burdick capped off the scoring with a dinger to lead off the ninth.

Scoring 26 runs may be a (likely) once-in-a-season occasion, but Norfolk's season has been replete with high-scoring games. The Tides scoring 12 runs in each of their first two games was just the appetizer, as they're now averaging 13 runs a game through five contests.

The Tides paced the International League East in scoring last season (5.88 runs per game) and were second in 2022 (5.33). Whether it's been Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson or Holliday and Kjerstad, this Norfolk lineup has remained potent, even after many impressive graduations.

It's a major perk of the Orioles having baseball's top-ranked farm system since midway through the 2021 season.