Sean Halton reached base safely four times and Norfolk collected 10 hits, but the Tides dropped Game 1 of the IL Semifinals to the Columbus Clippers 5-2 Wednesday night at Harbor Park.
The Tides registered 10 hits - all singles - in the contest but finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position to drop the opener of the best-of-five series. Halton singled three times and walked once to pace the offense, while Christian Walker and Audry Perez each added two singles apiece.
Norfolk starter Terry Doyle (0-1) took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings of work. Doyle, who tied for second in all of Minor League Baseball with 16 wins this season, surrendered a two-run single by Audy Ciriaco in the third frame before the Clippers chased him with three runs in the fifth inning. It was the first time in his last 20 starts that Doyle - who ranked second among O's farmhands with a 2.16 ERA this season - did not complete five innings of work. The Boston College product walked two and struck out five while throwing 53 of his 80 pitches for strikes.
Ryan Merritt (1-0) earned the victory for Columbus after allowing seven hits over 6.2 shutout frames. The 23-year-old southpaw walked one and struck out two in just his sixth career start at the Triple-A level.
Trailing 5-0 entering the ninth inning, Norfolk made things interesting against the Clippers bullpen, as the Tides loaded the bases with nobody out against Jeff Johnson. Carlos Marmol was brought in and retired the first batter he faced on a popup, and he appeared to be out of the inning one batter later when pinch-hitter Junior Lake hit a potential game-ending double play grounder to shortstop Erik Gonzalez. Gonzalez threw to second to record the second out of the inning, but Audy Ciriaco threw wide of first in his attempt to turn the double play, allowing two unearned runs to score on the play.
Marmol escaped further damage, however, striking out Henry Urrutia to end the contest and give Columbus the series-opening victory.
The Clippers registered 13 hits in the contest, with Michael Choice leading the visitor's efforts with three hits - including two doubles - and a run scored.
The two clubs square off in Game 2 Thursday night at Harbor Park, with first pitch slated for 6:35. Chris Jones (8-8, 2.94) gets the start for Norfolk and will be opposed by right-hander Jared Grube (9-0, 2.26). The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a Tides cap, courtesy of Smithfield.
Notes: Prior to Wednesday's game, 1B Andy Wilkins, OF Junior Lake and RHP Oliver Drake were optioned to Norfolk, LHP Cesar Cabral was outrighted to Norfolk, and RHP Kenn Kasparek, LHP Cody Wheeler and OF Johnny Ruettiger were transferred to Class-A Frederick…Norfolk's bullpen of Richard Rodriguez, Andy Oliver, Pedro Beato and Oliver Drake combined to throw 4.1 shutout innings of relief...The playoff game was Norfolk's first since the 2005 season…2015 is the eighth time the Tides and Clippers have met in the postseason, with the last matchup coming in 1996.