By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
The 2017 minor league season unofficially began today for the Norfolk Tides as they took on their parent affiliate, the Baltimore Orioles, in front of nearly 9,000 fans. The exhibition game ended in a 3-3 tie after nine complete innings.
Photo: Nick Stevens
When the gates opened at 1:00 pm, the outfield was a swimming pool, but thanks to an absolutely amazing performance by the Harbor Park grounds crew, fans were treated to an unforgettable time at Harbor Park.
J.J. Hardy started the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the third as the Orioles would lead until Francisco Pena’s two-run double into the right field gap gave the Tides a 2-1 lead in the 6th.
After the Orioles were able to tie the game at two, Johnny Giavotella’s 8th inning sac-fly gave the Tides a 3-2 lead heading into the 9th.
Joey Rickard would end up scoring the final run of the game on a Ryan Flaherty single, bringing the game to a tied close.
Getting the start for the Tides was Brandon Barker (5-7, 4.74 ERA with Bowie last year) who went four innings, gave up two hits, one run (J.J. Hardy solo HR), and struck out four. Barker topped out at 94 mph with his fastball and struggled early to find the plate. It was clear Brandon was working on hitting the outside portion of the plate, as all but three of his pitches in the first three innings were on the outer half.
Lucas Long (24th round pick in 2014) followed Barker with a four-pitch walk to Jonathan Schoop to start the 5th inning, but quickly settled in for three solid innings, giving up just one run on three hits. Long had the best performance of all the pitchers today when it came to command of the strike zone and movement with his pitches.
Other performances of note today for Norfolk included Chance Sisco, who went 1-1 with a walk, and Chris Dickerson who finished the day 1-2 with two runs scored and two walks. Pedro Alvarez patrolled right field for the Tides and finished 0-3 with a strikeout. His replacement, Henry Urrutia, watched three straight pitches go by for strikes in his only at-bat.
Despite a solid performance at the plate, Dickerson dropped a routine pop fly in left field and bobbled an easy ground ball. Both plays seemed to be unfortunate mental lapses.
I also have to mention Joe Gunkel. Gunkel pitched two innings for Baltimore, but he will begin the season with Norfolk. His five-pitch fifth inning brought a standing ovation from myself.
Overall, it was a successful day for the Tides and I strongly believe this team is set for a thrilling season. They will return to Harbor Park on April 4th for another exhibition game against the Norfolk State Spartans. Tickets are only $7 and Baby Birdland will have a recap of the game for fans who can’t make it out.
Be sure to like Baby Birdland on Facebook, Google+ and follow our Twitter account!