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Orioles minor league recap 10/1: Tides win Triple-A championship behind Cowser slam

The Orioles’ top affiliate won a showdown with Oklahoma City for the Triple-A title.

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Triple-A: Norfolk Tides 7, Oklahoma City Dodgers 6

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2023 Norfolk Tides are the champions of Triple-A.

The Orioles’ top affiliate, already crowned the International League champions last week, won a single-game showdown in Las Vegas against the Pacific Coast League champion Dodgers, 7-6, to reign supreme in all of Triple-A. Because, you know, it hadn’t been a good enough year already for the Orioles.

Justin Armbruester, the Birds’ #24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made the start for the Tides and gutted through five solid innings, holding the Dodgers to one run despite six baserunners. The Tides, after stranding two runners apiece in the first and second, stole a run in the top of the third. With Colton Cowser at second and Coby Mayo at first, both runners took off, and catcher Hunter Feduccia threw to second. Mayo got himself into a rundown long enough for Cowser to bolt for the plate, where he scored the first run.

The 1-0 score continued until the fifth, when Feduccia smacked a game-tying home run off Armbruester. The Dodgers then took their first lead in the sixth against Mike Baumann, as Miguel Vargas led off with a double and Johnny Deluca singled him home.

But the game turned on its head in the top of the seventh thanks to one big swing by the Orioles’ #2 prospect. After the Orioles loaded the bases on a double and two walks, Cowser strode to the plate against left-hander Alec Gamboa...and crushed a 455-foot, go-ahead grand slam to dead center on an 0-2 pitch.

Clutch! It’s been a challenging year for Cowser, who failed in his first taste of the major leagues this season, but his future is certainly bright. He’ll surely get another chance to play a role for the Orioles in 2024.

Oklahoma City brought the potential tying run to the plate in the home half of the seventh, but Bryan Baker whiffed Vargas to pitch out of trouble. In case you were wondering, yes, Baker does still get fired up about strikeouts, even in the minors.

The Tides added on in the ninth on a Connor Norby two-run homer, capping a three-hit night and an outstanding 2023 season at Norfolk for the Orioles’ #7 prospect. It’s a good thing they added that insurance, because the Dodgers almost rallied back to tie in the bottom of the ninth, plating four runs with two outs before the Tides stemmed the rally. With two aboard and two down, first baseman Michael Busch, the Dodgers’ #2 prospect and #44 in baseball, crushed a three-run homer off Nick Vespi. Joey Krehbiel replaced Vespi and promptly coughed up a dinger of his own, this one to Vargas.

Suddenly it was a one-run game, but finally Krehbiel sealed the final out, fanning Ryan Ward to win the championship. Congratulations, Tides!

Cowser was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He and Norby accounted for five of Norfolk’s seven hits. Jackson Holliday took a rare 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, while Mayo and Joey Ortiz were each 0-for-4.

What a season for Norfolk. And just wait until those prospects start arriving in Baltimore next year.

Box score