The 2019 season featured an astounding number of sensational plays, award winners and Norfolk's first franchise's first MVP in over 20 years. Take a look back at some of the highlights from another year of Tides baseball.
Season In Review: Norfolk was led by manager Gary Kendall, who joined the Tides after an eight-year run with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. The Tides finished the season with a 60-79 record, placing them fourth in the International League South Division. Norfolk ended the year on a high note, going 19-11 from August 1st through the end of the season - the second-best mark in the entire league over that stretch. The Tides won or split eight of their final nine series, and Norfolk kept division rival Charlotte out of the postseason with a dramatic 7-6 comeback win on the final day of the regular season.
This Is Birdland: The Tides had 68 different players appear on the active roster in 2019, with 64 of those players appearing in a game (RHP Cristian Alvarado, LHP Brian Gonzalez, C Stuart Levy and C Pedro Perez all appeared on Norfolk's roster but never played in a game). The Tides set a franchise record with 238 roster moves during the 2019 season, surpassing the previous mark of 226 set in both 2012 and 2017.
There were 37 players to appear on the active roster for both Norfolk and Baltimore in 2019: Pitchers Pedro Araujo, Ty Blach, Ryan Eades, Tom Eshelman, Paul Fry, Sean Gilmartin, Hunter Harvey, David Hess, Nate Karns (MLB Rehab), Branden Kline, Josh Lucas, Luis Ortiz, Evan Phillips, Yefry Ramírez, Josh Rogers, Tanner Scott, Tayler Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Dan Straily, Dillon Tate, Matt Wotherspoon, Jimmy Yacabonis and Gabriel Ynoa, infielders Jace Peterson, José Rondón, Rio Ruiz, Mark Trumbo (MLB Rehab) and Stevie Wilkerson, outfielders Cedric Mullins, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr, DJ Stewart and Mason Williams, and catchers Chance Sisco, Jesús Sucre and Austin Wynns.
Eight different Tides made their Major League debuts in 2019: Ryan Eades (made MLB debut with Minnesota), Tom Eshelman, Hunter Harvey, Branden Kline, Tayler Scott (made MLB debut with Seattle), Chandler Shepherd, Dillon Tate and Matt Wotherspoon.
Baby Birds: Norfolk was host to some of the Orioles' top prospects throughout the 2019 season. The Tides had eight of Baltimore's Top 30 Prospects appear on the roster at some point during the 2019 campaign. That list included Ryan Mountcastle (#4), Austin Hays (#6), Dean Kremer (#8), Keegan Akin (#11), Hunter Harvey (#15), DJ Stewart (#23), Rylan Bannon (#24) and Dillon Tate (#27).
King of the Mountcastle: Ryan Mountcastle enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in franchise history, as he was named as the International League's Most Valuable Player - the first Tide to take home that honor since Roberto Petagine in 1997. The 22-year-old led the league in hits (162) and total bases (274) while ranking among IL leaders in doubles (3rd, 35), average (5th, .312), RBI (5th, 83), runs (5th, 81), home runs (T-11th, 25) and OPS (T-11th, .871). He was the first Norfolk player to lead the IL in hits since Mike Cervenak in 2007, and his 162 hits were tied for the 5th-most in franchise history. Since the Tides became an Orioles affiliate in 2007, no player has registered more hits (162) or runs (81) than Mountcastle recorded in 2019, while his .312 average was tied for the second-best recorded by a Tide as an O's affiliate behind the .316 average registered by Oscar Salazar in 2008.
Mountcastle was named the first baseman on the International League's Postseason All-Star Team, becoming just the fourth Tides position player to be named to the Postseason All-Star Team since Norfolk aligned with Baltimore in 2007 (joining Oscar Salazar in 2008, Dariel Álvarez in 2015 and Pedro Álvarez in 2017). Mountcastle also represented the International League in the Midseason All-Star Game, held on July 10th in El Paso, TX.
Mountcastle also matched a franchise record on June 2nd vs. Louisville when he homered three times in an 11-5 win. His three-homer game was the first by a Tides player as an Orioles affiliate and just the seventh by a Norfolk player at the Triple-A level - and first since Chase Lambin accomplished the feat in 2005. The three-homer contest came just one day after Mountcastle hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift Norfolk to an 8-7 win.
Mountcastle also won the organizational "Triple Crown", leading all Orioles minor leaguers in average (.312), home runs (25) and RBI (83).
You Can't Spell Akin Without The K: In his first year at the Triple-A level, Keegan Akin enjoyed phenomenal success. The 24-year-old led the International League with 131 strikeouts, becoming the first Tides pitcher to lead the circuit in punchouts since Manny Hernandez in 1990. His 131 strikeouts were the most ever recorded by a Tides pitcher as an Orioles affiliate, surpassing a 120-strikeout campaign from Garrett Olson in 2008.
Akin was named the starting pitcher for the Triple-A All-Star Game in El Paso, TX, becoming the first Tides pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Jason Scobie in 2005. He also ranked among qualifying International League leaders in average against (1st, .256), starts (T-4th, 24), ERA (6th, 4.73), WHIP (12th, 1.51) and innings pitched (T-12th, 112.1).
He allowed three earned runs or less in 21 of his 24 starts, and he registered at least five strikeouts in 17 of his 24 strikeouts - including a 10-strikeout outing on April 12th vs. Toledo in which his strikeout total nearly matched the number of balls (13) he threw during a 6.0-inning, 78-pitch performance.
Simply A-Mason: Outfielder Mason Williams was one of the most consistent performers in the International League in 2019. He ranked among league leaders in hits (5th, 136), average (7th, .308), OBP (14th, .371) and total bases (14th, 211). Williams thrived after the All-Star break, batting .335 with seven home runs, 26 RBI and a .402 on-base percentage. Included in his second half surge was a stretch that saw him hit safely in 25 of 27 contests while posting a .455 OBP from July 12th - August 10th.
Williams led the International League with 12 outfield assists, and he set new career-bests in home runs (18), RBI (67), hits (136) and extra-base hits (36). His .308 average was the 4th-best by any Tide since Norfolk became an Orioles affiliate in 2007. Williams ranked second behind only Ryan Mountcastle among all Orioles minor leaguers in average (.308), home runs (18) and RBI (67).
On The Offensive: Triple-A Baseball began using Major League baseballs in 2019, and the increase in offense was drastic. All fourteen International League clubs hit more home runs in 2019 than in 2018, while seven teams established new franchise records for homers in a season (Charlotte, Columbus, Gwinnett, Lehigh Valley, Rochester, Scranton/WB and Syracuse). In the first 135 seasons of International League baseball, only five times did a team hit 200 ore more home runs. In 2019 alone, four teams reached the 200-homer mark (Columbus, Scranton/WB, Charlotte and Gwinnett). There were 1,555 home runs hit in 1948 games in 2018 (an average of 0.80 per game), while the 2019 season saw an increase of 885 home runs (2,440 homers in 1958 games) for an average of 1.25 home runs per game. 29 different players hit 20 or more home runs in 2019, more than the total of the previous five seasons combined.
Thirteen IL clubs scored more runs in 2019 than in 2018, with Indianapolis (-9) the only club to see its run total diminish. Indianapolis (616) and Louisville (650) were the only two clubs to finish with fewer runs scored in 2019 than the league leader Durham accumulated in 2018 (653). Ten different IL clubs registered over 700 runs scored - no IL club had surpassed the 700-run plateau over the previous six seasons.
The league ERA was 4.90 in 2019, an increase of over a run from the 3.84 league ERA posted in 2018. In 2018, Columbus had the highest ERA in the league with a 4.34 mark, but that ERA would have ranked second in the IL in 2019 as only one club (Gwinnett, 4.29) had an ERA under 4.51. Three teams had team ERA's over 5.00, with Norfolk's 5.58 ERA easily surpassing the previous franchise high of 4.58 in 1999.
Making His Pitch: Chandler Shepherd was named the International League Player of the Month for August. Shepherd made five starts for Norfolk in the final full month of the season, going 3-1 while leading all qualifying pitchers with a 1.62 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and .181 opponents batting average. He turned in Norfolk's lone complete game of the season in a win at Charlotte on August 24th, then capped off his month with eight shutout innings in another win vs. Charlotte, this time at Harbor Park on August 30th.
Sandwiched around his phenomenal month with the Tides was Shepherd's Major League debut, a 4.0-inning relief stint at Yankee Stadium on August 13th. He allowed one run on five hits in that contest and registered a pair of strikeouts - including a strikeout of Aaron Judge for his first big league punchout.
Shepherd was acquired off of waivers by Baltimore in late May and made 14 appearances (12 starts) with Norfolk, going 3-5 with a 4.60 ERA. He registered 73 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 72.1 innings of work. His Player of the Month award was the first time a Tides player had earned the league honor since Travis Ishikawa in May of 2013.
All About That Jace: Jace Peterson thrived during his time with the Tides in 2019, hitting .313 with 10 home runs, 25 doubles, five triples and 46 RBI over 90 games. After batting just .200 in April, Peterson hit .350 with a .432 on-base percentage over his final 67 games with Norfolk, registering 26 multi-hit games over that stretch - including eight games with three hits or more. From May 1st through July 23rd (when he was promoted to Baltimore), he ranked among International League leaders in average (1st, .350), OBP (1st, .431), OPS (2nd, .995), total bases (T-4th, 137), extra-base hits (T-6th, 33), stolen bases (T-7th, 12) and runs scored (8th, 46). Peterson also registered five different hitting streaks of at least six games or more.
DJ Playing The Hits: DJ Stewart led all of Minor League Baseball with a .457 average in May. Stewart, a 1st round pick out of Florida State in 2015, posted a .518 on-base percentage with five home runs, 11 doubles, 28 RBI and 15 runs scored over 20 games in May. He homered twice (including a grand slam) and drove in a Tides season-high seven runs on May 8th vs. Pawtucket, and he followed that up with a five-game stretch from May 12th - May 17th that saw him hit three home runs while driving in 11. Stewart had five more multi-hit games (8) than hitless games (3) in May.
Stewart appeared in 63 games with the Tides in 2019, batting .291 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and a .396 on-base percentage. He had 15 multi-hit games with Norfolk, including a four-hit contest on May 25th at Gwinnett that matched his career-high for hits in a game.
May Days: Norfolk led the International League with a .299 team average in May, 18 points higher than Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's .281 team mark. The Tides had five of the top 10 hitters in the league in May: DJ Stewart (1st, .456), Chance Sisco (7th, .345), Ryan Mountcastle (8th, .341), Jace Peterson (9th, .340) and Mason Williams (10th, .338). Norfolk's offense ranked among league leaders in May in hits (1st, 279), fewest strikeouts (1st, 177), doubles (2nd, 69) and runs per game (3rd, 5.96).
International Exposure: Norfolk had four players named as the International League Player of the Week during the 2019 campaign. That list included Ryan Mountcastle (April 15-21), Chance Sisco (April 29-May 5), Jace Peterson (July 8-14) and Chandler Shepherd (July 29-August 4).
Chance Encounters: Chance Sisco impressed over his limited time in Norfolk this year, batting .292 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles and 37 RBI over 45 games with the Tides. He hit just .188 over his first 17 contests, but caught fire at the end of April. From April 28 through June 1st (when he was promoted to Baltimore), Sisco hit .356 with a .456 OBP, 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 28 games. He homered in three straight games from April 30 - May 2, then registered multi-homer contests on May 4th vs. Charlotte and May 30th vs. Columbus. He also matched his career-high with four hits on May 4th vs. Charlotte and again on May 29th vs. Columbus.
In-Vincej-Ble: Infielder Zach Vincej had a remarkably consistent season during his first year in the Orioles organization. Vincej appeared defensively at all four infield positions, batting .270 with eight home runs, 22 doubles and 51 RBI over 101 games. The 28-year-old went back-to-back starts without a hit just four times all season, and he never went three consecutive games without registering a hit. He also made his first career defensive appearances at first base, playing in 28 games without making an error over 206 total chances.
Jack Of All Trades: Infielder Jack Reinheimer spent the entire season with Norfolk, batting .246 with four home runs, 15 doubles and 31 RBI over 106 contests. The winner of the Gold Glove Award from the Tidewatchers Booster Club, Reinheimer posted a .970 fielding percentage (12 errors in 405 total chances) between second base, third base and shortstop. Reinheimer capped the 2019 campaign with a big game in the final contest of the season, knotting the contest with an RBI double in the eighth inning before lifting the Tides to a walk-off win with a run-scoring single in the tenth frame. That win knocked Charlotte out of the postseason and gave the Durham Bulls the IL Wild Card spot.
Striking Performances: Norfolk's pitching staff set a franchise record for strikeouts in a season. Tides hurlers registered 1,195 strikeouts in 2019, surpassing the previous franchise mark of 1,120 set during the 2016 campaign.
Double Threats: The Tides matched a franchise record by hitting 270 doubles over 139 games - tying the total registered by the 2005 Tides (over 144 games). Twelve different Tides reached double digits in doubles, including four players who had more than 20: Ryan Mountcastle (35), Jace Peterson (25), Zach Vincej (22) and Christopher Bostick (22).
Mr. BoomBostick: Christopher Bostick spent the entire season with Norfolk, ranking among team leaders in doubles (2nd, 25), triples (T-2nd, 3), games (T-3rd, 106), runs (3rd, 59), at-bats (3rd, 392), hits (4th, 101), total bases (4th, 165), and home runs (T-5th, 12). Bostick belted two home runs on June 6th at Columbus, and he counted five different three-hit performances among his 25 multi-hit contests this season.
Leaning Left: The Tides batted an International League best .301 against left-handed pitching in 2019, 22 points higher than the next-best team (Louisville, .279). Among players who had at least 50 at-bats against left-handers, Norfolk had seven players with an average at or above .300 against southpaws: Jace Peterson (.398), Austin Wynns (.377), Mason Williams (.360), Ryan Mountcastle (.349), Jesus Sucre (.328), DJ Stewart (.318) and Chance Sisco (.300).
100% Chance Of Hays: Rated as one of the top prospects in the Orioles system, outfielder Austin Hays thrived in his first extended action at the Triple-A level. Hays hit .254 with 10 home runs, 16 doubles and 27 RBI over 59 games with Norfolk, including a seven-game hitting streak to end the season. After the All-Star break, Hays ranked among IL leaders in runs scored (2nd, 39), doubles (T-4th, 14), total bases (7th, 96) and hits (T-9th, 53).
Austin's Powers: Catcher Austin Wynns appeared in 62 games with Norfolk in 2019, batting .264 with three home runs, five doubles and 25 runs batted in. Wynns batted .348 with a .423 OBP in August, and he ended his season by hitting safely in eight consecutive contests. The 28-year-old backstop matched his career-best by registering four hits on June 30th vs. Charlotte and August 6th vs. Indianapolis, and he threw out 34.7% of attempted basestealers (17-for-49) over the course of the campaign.
Tayler Made: Tayler Scott made 13 relief appearances with Norfolk in 2019 - and allowed a run in just one of them. Scott, who joined the Tides on June 29th after being claimed off waivers from Seattle, registered six saves and a 0.56 ERA (1 ER, 16.0 IP) in his 13 outings with Norfolk. He limited International League batters to a .193 average while recording 21 strikeouts and just three walks.
Great Scott: Tanner Scott led the Tides with seven saves in 2019, going 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA over 30 appearances. Scott limited IL batters to a .211 average, registering 57 strikeouts and just 15 walks over 45.1 innings of work. He held left-handers to a .159 average and posted a 1.93 ERA in 12 appearances after the All-Star break.
The Name Game: The Tides had two pitchers with the last name Scott (Tanner and Tayler) who were not related, as well as two Cervenkas (Hunter and Martin) that were not related. Norfolk also had three players named Luis (Gonzalez, Ortiz and Ysla), two players named Chris (Clare and Lee, along with a Christopher Bostick), two Austins (Hays and Wynns), two Hunters (Cervenka and Harvey), two Ryans (Eades and Mountcastle), two players named Josh (Lucas and Rogers), two Zachs (Muckenhirn and Vincej) and two Pedros (Araujo and Perez). Norfolk also had a Martin (Cervenka) and a Gilmartin (Sean) and two players with Lucas in their names (Josh Lucas and Lucas Long).
Czech Him Out: Catcher Martin Cervenka hit safely in all 12 games in which he appeared with Norfolk, setting a career-high. Cervenka, a native of the Czech Republic who opened the year with Double-A Bowie, batted .206 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 46 games with the Baysox before joining Norfolk full time on August 2nd. In his 12 games with the Tides, Cervenka batted .372 with three doubles, four RBI and a .438 on-base percentage.