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Colton Cowser grand slam helps deliver Triple-A title to Norfolk Tides

Chris Graham

norfolk tidesA Colton Cowser grand slam put Norfolk ahead to stay as the Tides defeated the Oklahoma City Dodgers, 7-6, to win the Triple-A Championship Saturday night at Las Vegas Ballpark.

The Triple-A title is the first for the Tides since 1983, when the franchise was affiliated with the New York Mets.

Cowser, who got 77 plate appearances in 26 games with the Baltimore Orioles in the 2023 season, was named the game’s MVP after going 2-for-4 at the plate.

The outfielder slashed .300/.417/.520 with 17 homers in 399 plate appearances for the Tides in 2023.

In the championship game, it would be Norfolk that would get on the board first, in the third inning, when Cowser scored on the front end of a double steal.

Justin Armbruester had a solid start for the Tides. He didn’t allow a run in the first four innings. With two outs in the fifth, Hunter Feduccia hit a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1.

Armbruester finished with 5.0 innings pitched allowing the one run on two hits (including the home run) and three walks while striking out four. He threw 71 pitches, 46 for strikes.

The Dodgers scored again in the sixth, starting with a leadoff double by Miguel Vargas. He scored when Jonny DeLuca knocked an RBI single to the left side to give Oklahoma City a 2-1 lead.

The Tides started to get things cooking again in the seventh. With one out, Lewin Díaz laced a double off the left-center field wall to get the offense started. Maverick Handley pinch-hit for Anthony Bemboom and walked on four straight pitches.

Top prospect Jackson Holliday flew out for the second out of the inning, but Connor Norby followed with a walk. With the bases loaded, Cowser fell behind 0-2 quickly. But he took the next pitch deep to center field that cleared the batter’s eye, bringing the score to 5-2.

The grand slam went 455 feet, and produced a 53.9 percent win probability added. The Tides’ win chances to win went from 34.8 percent to 88.7 percent after the slam.

Into the ninth, the Tides put across what would be very important insurance runs. Handley reached safely on a hit-by pitch, then scored on a two-run homer by Norby to go up 7-2.

Norby finished the night 3-for-3 with a home run, two RBI, two walks and two runs scored.

His slash line for 2023 in Norfolk: .290/.359/.483, with 21 homers in 633 plate appearances.

Oklahoma City put up a fight in the ninth. Jorbit Vivas led off with a walk and reached second on defensive indifference. Drew Avans knocked an RBI single to follow to make it 7-3. Avans scored when Michael Busch launched a two-run homer to bring it to 7-5.

Joey Krehbiel entered to pitch for the Tides to get the remaining out, but Vargas had other plans by launching a home run to make it 7-6.

Krehbiel settled in and struck out Ryan Ward out on three pitches to clinch it.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].