On his seventh day in Norfolk, Andy Wilkins saved the team's season.
The former International League All-Star hit a go-ahead two-run double in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday as the Tides rallied for a 6-5 victory at Columbus, evening the best-of-5 Governors' Cup semifinals at 2-2.
Henry Urrutia drew a leadoff walk in the ninth against Clippers closer Carlos Marmol (0-1) and was replaced by pinch-runner Julio Borbon. Rey Navarro singled and stole second as Christian Walker struck out. As he stepped into the box, Wilkins doubted whether he would even get a chance to swing.
"Personally, I thought they were going to walk me with the base open," Wilkins said. "I saw [Columbus manager Chris Tremie] coming out and I was like, 'Well, they're going to pitch to me.' I was really just trying to be pretty selective."
Marmol ran the count to 3-2 before hanging a slider that Wilkins deposited into the right-field corner to flip a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.
The 2014 IL home run champion got a chance to be the hero a week after joining the Tides from Triple-A Oklahoma City, which clinched a Pacific Coast League playoff berth the day before the Orioles claimed Wilkins off waivers.
Off the field, Wilkins has taken well to his new situation.
"You know, it's a lot of fun," he said. "It's a good group of guys over here. I'm just trying to enjoy the moment."
On the field, the transition had been less immediate. The University of Arkansas product had gone 0-for-12 in the first three games of the series, none of which mattered after his final at-bat Sunday.
"It felt really good," Wilkins said. "I had been struggling since I'd gotten here and I'd finally started getting in a groove.
"It's kind of frustrating when you come over with a new group of guys and you want to make a good impression and stuff like that. … Afterwards, it was definitely a good feeling. I'm just enjoying the moment."
Wilkins wouldn't have gotten his opportunity if not for Navarro's two-run homer in the seventh that cut Norfolk's deficit to 5-4. The bomb was part of a four-hit night from the veteran second baseman, who's batting .529 (9-for-17) in the series.
"He's just been Mr. Consistency," Wilkins said. "The guy's done everything right. He's really coming up big for us right now. Hopefully, we can carry it over and kind of help him out a little bit."
The Tides will seek a complete performance in Game 5 on Monday in Columbus, beginning with more consistency on offense. While they've scored 12 times in their two wins in the series, they've totaled four runs in the two losses.
"We've just got to get everything going at once," Wilkins said. "Every time that we've lost, the offense hasn't really been there -- and I haven't helped with that either -- but we just have to put it all together and once we do that, we'll be pretty hard to beat."
Adam Moore homered and drove in two runs for the Clippers, who got three hits and an RBI from Erik Gonzalez.
Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com.