The Norfolk Tides (36-15) defeated the Gwinnett Stripers (22-29), 9-7, in the teams’ series opener on Tuesday night at Harbor Park.
After surrendering a six-run lead, the Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, were able to rally in the ninth with a pair of home runs to earn the walk-off victory.
The Tides got things started with a bang on a colder than usual evening as Jordan Westburg took a 1-1 pitch the other way for a solo home run that cleared the Tides bullpen in right, giving Norfolk their first run of the game in the first inning of play.
After a pair of productive at-bats in the second that resulted in walks, Shayne Fontana hit a long single with the ball leaving his bat at 103.1 MPH, hitting off the right field wall on the fly to bring around two runs.
A successful hit and run moved Fontana over to third and he was able to jog home on a Westburg single through the left side, putting a fourth run on the board for the Tides.
With two away in the frame, Josh Lester popped a ball up into shallow left field that fell into between converging Gwinnett fielders, allowing two more runs to score. By the end of the inning, the Tides had batted around and led the Stripers by six.
A two-out walk followed by consecutive singles, the latter of the base knocks coming from Forrest Wall, plated a run for the Stripers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, in the top of the third. The result of a fielding error in the fourth tallied another run for Gwinnett.
Braden Shewmake was able to capitalize on two walks drawn by Striper batters as he lined a double into the right-center gap to drive in two runs in the fifth. Following a Nick Solak RBI double, Gwinnett would load the bases and take a 7-6 lead on a Joshua Fuentes single hit down the first base line that scored two runs.
The bats would go silent in the following innings until Lewin Díaz put a jolt into one in the ninth to tie the game with a solo home run to right field. With one away in the inning and a runner on, Ben DeLuzio got a pitch he could handle and sent it over the right field fence for a walk-off home run, giving the Tides the 9-7 win.
Three of the hardest-hit balls of the night belonged to Jordan Westburg as his three of his hardest-hit balls in play averaging an exit velocity of 103.4 MPH with the hardest rocketing off the bat and resulting in a flyout at 110.2 MPH…his first inning home run was his 14th of the year which ties for second in the International League with teammate Josh Lester.
This is the third walk-off victory the Tides have earned this season and the second time this year the game was won with a walk-home run…Ben DeLuzio hit the game-winner, his first home run as a Tide…it was also the shortest home run hit by a Tides player this season.
Norfolk is back at it today with a doubleheader against Gwinnett with Game 1 scheduled to begin at 5:35 p.m. Expected to toe the rubber for the Tides is LHP Cole Irvin (5-1, 3.25) and LHP Drew Rom (4-3, 4.57). RHP AJ Smith-Shawyer (0-1, 3.00) and LHP Nick Margevicius (0-1, 6.16) are slated to make starts for the Stripers.