Las Vegas Ballpark will host the 2023 Triple-A National Championship Game. (Photo by Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The Triple-A National Championship Game will be played on September 30 at the Las Vegas Aviators Ballpark, the home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, and will be streamed free on MiLB.tv and on MLB Network starting at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. EDT.
The Norfolk Tides (90-59), Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, will face off against the Oklahoma City Dodgers (90-58) in a winner-take-all showdown on Saturday night.
The Baltimore Orioles have the No. 1-ranked farm system in Major League Baseball according to MLBpipeline.com’s midseason rankings, while the Los Angeles Dodgers were ranked No. 6 by MLBpipeline.com.
Both franchises look to win their first Triple-A national championship when take the field under the lights in the desert.
Numerous players who could soon touch a Major League Baseball diamond will be on display Saturday, giving fans in attendance or viewing from afar something of a preview of who might be coming up the prospect pipeline.
The Norfolk Tides came back from a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-three International League Championship Series to win their first league title since 1985 against the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls, on Thursday, shutting them out 7-0 at home.
Tides starting pitcher Cade Povich threw four innings allowing three hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. Reliever Kyle Dowdy recorded the win on Thursday night, coming out of the bullpen in the fifth inning and throwing three innings, allowing two walks and striking out two batters.
All told, the Tides pitching staff combined for three hits allowed, seven walks, and eight strikeouts during the International League pennant.
The first overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, Norfolk Tides shortstop Jackson Holliday, is the player to watch come next year when Spring Training begins in mid-February. Holliday, the No. 1 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, hit a big solo home run over the right field wall in the bottom of the eighth inning extending the score to 5-0.
The No. 27 MLBpipeline.com Top 100 prospect third baseman Coby Mayo had a stellar performance on Thursday, ripping four hits and notching four RBI. He cracked a ground-rule two-run double that hopped over the right field fence in his first at-bat, and in the bottom of the eighth inning, blasted a two-run home run to right field making it 7-0.
Tides manager Buck Britton has plenty of offense up and down the lineup, with right fielder Kyle Stowers swinging a hot bat. His batting average is .545 during the playoffs along with No. 50 MLBpipeline.com prospect from the Top 100 second baseman Joey Ortiz.
Ortiz has played 88 games with the Tides batting .321 in the regular season with 389 plate appearances recording 112 hits, 30 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 58 RBI, swiping 11 bases, 32 walks, 69 strikeouts including a .885 OPS.
Ortiz batted .375 in the International League Championship Series and can be a major factor for the Tides offense come first pitch on Saturday.
The Oklahoma City Dodgers, managed by Travis Barbary, won their first Pacific Coast League title since 1996 by sweeping the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers in the best-of-three series on Tuesday night. Top-100 prospect Gavin Stone threw 6.1 innings, allowing four hits, two earned runs, two walks, and striking out 10 batters in a 5-2 win.
The key to the Dodgers offense is infielder Michael Busch, the No. 44 overall prospect in Top 100 of MLBpipeline.com. Busch has compiled a .323 average over in 98 games with 469 plate appearances and 126 hits, 26 doubles, four triples, 27 home runs, 90 RBI, 65 walks, and a 1.049 OPS during the 2023 season in Triple-A.
Busch was called up at various parts and played in 27 games with Los Angeles, batting .167 over 81 plate appearances with 12 hits, three doubles, two home runs, seven RBI, eight walks, and 27 strikeouts.
On Wednesday night, Busch went 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a three-run home run over the left field wall that gave Oklahoma City a four run lead during the bottom of the fifth inning.
Dodgers right fielder Drew Avans has been swinging the bat well, batting .750 in the playoffs and recording two hits during on Wednesday’s night’s Pacific Coast League pennant win.
Dodgers third baseman Miguel Vargas, who also spent part of the season in Los Angeles, will have to snap out of his offensive funk on Saturday. Vargas batted .288 in the regular season in Triple-A, playing in 60 games with 285 plate appearances and 68 hits, 15 doubles, 10 home runs, 43 RBI, eight stolen bases, 46 walks, 57 strikeouts and a .886 OPS.