Zach Walters has a handful of Major League home runs in his career. On Saturday, he slugged a pretty big one on a Minor League stage.
The Indians farmhand slugged a two-run shot in the first inning that sent Columbus on the way to a 6-2 victory over Norfolk at Huntington Park and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 International League semifinals.
"We did a great job coming out and getting on the board early, home run from Walters, and then we were able to get a couple runs later," Clippers manager Chris Tremie said. "Our starting pitcher [Will Roberts] did a great job getting us through five innings."
After Indians No. 25 prospect Jesus Aguilar got the Clippers on the board with an RBI single, Walters belted a two-run blast on a 1-0 offering from veteran right-hander Elih Villanueva (0-1). The 26-year-old designated hitter added a double and scored another run.
"He got first pitch out and away and then he got a pitch in the middle of the plate and hit a line drive home run to right-center field," Tremie said. "It's always nice to get off to a lead early."
While Columbus was building a six-run cushion by the fourth, Roberts (1-0) was dealing. The 25-year-old right-hander did not allow a hit until the fourth and ended up scattering five over five scoreless innings. He walked two and struck out two.
"He did a great job locating the ball in and out, keeping the ball down," Tremie said. "When he was in trouble, he was able to make pitches, get a ground ball, get a double play, and just a good overall pitching effort from him."
The Tides made things interesting in the eighth on a two-run double by Sharlon Schoop. After walking Henry Urrutia and giving up a single by Rey Navarro to load the bases, Shaun Marcum got Orioles No. 5 prospect Christian Walker to ground out and end the threat.
"[Marcum] threw a great slider down and away and got a ground ball to third to complete the inning. So he made the pitch when he had to to get out of the inning," Tremie said. "Our bullpen did a nice job tonight as well. Even though there was runners on base, we kept them from scoring until late in the game. Really good job by [Carlos] Marmol in the ninth, closing it out."
After a 1-2-3 ninth by the veteran right-hander, the Clippers sit one win from playing for the Governors' Cup. Columbus hosts Game 4 on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. ET.
"You gotta win three, and you play them one at a time, but to have the lead gives us an opportunity to win a game and wrap up the series," Tremie said. "So that's an advantage right now we have."
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.