Connor Norby fo the Norfolk Tides celebrates reaching base during the Triple-A National Championship Game at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin, Nevada. (Photo Courtesy Norfolk Tides/Minor League Baseball)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
SUMMERLIN, Nevada – The Norfolk Tides won their first Triple-A National Championship title beating the Oklahoma City Dodgers 7-6 on Saturday at Las Vegas Ballpark.
This was the second year Las Vegas Ballpark hosted the Triple-A National Championship Game as a neutral site , with a crowd of 8,556 people in attendance on Saturday night.
Norfolk Tides center fielder Colton Cowser won the Triple-A National Championship MVP Award, recording two hits and four RBI in his four at-bats, including his go-ahead grand slam in the top of the seventh inning.
“Tonight was something we worked through the whole year and I am really proud of our guys, proud of our organization and I’m glad we came out on top,” Cowser told World Baseball Network after the game.
The Dodgers pitching staff gave up a combined seven hits, seven earned runs, walked three batters and struck out eight in the loss.
Dodgers opener Yency Almonte was pulled after one inning by manager Travis Barbary allowing one hit, no earned runs, walking one batter and two strikeouts, and relief pitcher John Rooney came into the game in the top of the second.
In the top of the third inning, the Tides threatened to get on the board when third baseman Coby Mayo placed a high chopper ground ball to third base that was fielded cleaning by Dodgers third baseman Miguel Vargas. Vargas threw to the plate and catcher Hunter Feduccia tagged out Norfolk left fielder Connor Norby to keep the score at 0-0.
With Tides left fielder Kyle Stowers at the plate, Dodgers catcher Feduccia threw to shortstop Yonny Hernandez covering second base on a double steal. Norfolk third baseman Mayo was caught in a run-down between second and first and was tagged out trying to go back to first. Meanwhile, Tides center fielder Colton Cowser scored from second to make it 1-0 Norfolk.
Rooney left after two innings, having allowed two hits, one earned run, no walks, and three strikeouts, yielding to Tyson Miller.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Dodgers tied the game at one apiece when Feduccia launched a solo home run over the right field wall to even the score at 1-1.
Miller kept his composure on the mound while not coming back out for the sixth inning as he threw two innings allowing one hit, no earned runs, no walks, and striking out two batters.
Tides starting pitcher Justin Armbruester went five innings, allowing two hits, one earned run, three walks and four strikeouts.
During the bottom of the sixth, Dodgers right fielder Jonny Deluca laced a ground ball single to left field and Vargas came in to score to give Oklahoma City a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Cowser launched a 455-foot grand slam over the center field wall, scoring Lewin Diaz, Maverick Handley, and Connor Norby to give Norfolk a 5-2 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Norby launched a two-run home run over the center field wall to cushion the score to 7-2.
Dodgers center fielder Drew Avans would give Oklahoma City a little life during the bottom of the ninth with an RBI single to left field, scoring second baseman Jorbit Vivas to cut the lead to 7-3.
The next batter, first baseman Michael Bush, launched a two-run home run to right field, cutting the deficit to 7-5.
Then Norfolk called upon relief pitcher Joey Krehbiel to close out the game.
The following batter, Vargas, cut the deficit to one run, blasting a solo home run to left field, making the score 7-6.
Designated hitter Ryan Ward was the last hope to keep the Dodgers in the game, and struck out swinging for the final out.
“These guys never quit. There is a lot of determination in these guys, they want to succeed for each other and it’s been fun to watch them grow and have the success this year,” Tides manager Buck Britton told to World Baseball Network after the game.
NOTEBOOK: Home plate umpire Jen Pawol became the first woman to umpire a Triple-A game in 34 years in the final Minor League game on the calendar.
Pawol was a college softball umpire in the Big 10 before becoming the seventh female umpire in Minor League Baseball history in 2016.
She had steadily advanced through the ranks, calling games in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, before earning her promotion to Triple-A calling in both the Pacific Coast League and International League during 2023.
The inaugural Minor League Baseball Awards Show will be aired on MLB Network on October 2 at 8 p.m. EDT. The awards will include the Minor League Hitting Prospect of the Year, Minor League Pitching Prospect of the Year, the All-MLB Prospect Team (featuring one player at each position with a first and second Team announced), Breakout Player of the Year, Debut of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Team of the Year, Best Single-Game Performance, Defensive Play of the Year, and the Home Run of the Year.