Andy Wilkins hit a go-ahead two-run double in the top of the ninth inning, lifting Norfolk to a 6-5 comeback win over the Columbus Clippers Sunday night from Huntington Park. With the win, Norfolk evened up the best-of-five International League Semifinal series at two games apiece and forced a decisive Game 5 Monday night at 6:35.
Norfolk had trailed the contest 5-4 entering the ninth inning but put together a decisive rally against Clippers closer Carlos Marmol (0-1). Henry Urrutia opened the final frame with a walk before being lifted for pinch-runner Julio Borbon, and Rey Navarro followed with a single to right field - his fourth hit of the game - to put runners on first and third with nobody out. After a strikeout and a stolen base put runners on second and third, Wilkins - who was celebrating his 27th birthday Sunday - lined a 2-2 pitch down the right field line, plating both Borbon and Navarro and giving the Tides their first lead of the contest.
Norfolk closer Oliver Drake made the lead stand up, as he worked a perfect ninth inning to register the save and set up a winner-take-all game Monday night in Columbus.
The Clippers plated five runs through the first five frames and led the contest 5-2 entering the seventh inning before Navarro ignited Norfolk's comeback bid. Sharlon Schoop opened the seventh frame by reaching on a throwing error, and one batter later Navarro belted a long fly ball over the right field wall for a two-run home run that pulled the Tides within 5-4.
Navarro had four of Norfolk's 10 hits in the contest and has now hit .529 (9-17) over the first four games of the series. Wilkins, who did not appear in a regular season game for the Tides and was hitless in the series prior to Sunday, also drive home a run in the third inning with an RBI single off the right field wall.
Norfolk starter Chris Jones yielded four runs (three earned) on six hits before being chased from the contest with two outs in the third inning. Jones, who had yielded four runs in just one of his 22 starts with Norfolk during the regular season, walked one and struck out one while throwing 34 of his 50 pitches for strikes. The 26-year-old southpaw, who finished 7th in the International League with a 2.94 ERA this season, was starting on two days rest after being forced from Game 2 when that contest was suspended due to heavy rain in the second inning.
Norfolk's bullpen of Andy Oliver, Cesar Cabral, Richard Rodriguez, Pedro Beato (1-0) and Drake combined to allow one run over 6.1 innings of relief. Over the first four games of the series, Norfolk's relief corps has combined to post a 0.77 ERA (2 ER, 23.1 IP).
The Tides will turn to Terry Doyle in Monday night's decisive Game 5, while Columbus will counter with right-hander Mike Clevenger. Doyle led Orioles minor leaguers with 16 victories this season, while Clevenger will be making his Triple-A debut after spending all season with Double-A Akron. The game will be carried live on ESPN Radio 94.1 and online at MiLB.tv. The winner of Monday's contest will host Indianapolis in Game 1 of the International League Championship Series on Tuesday night.
Notes: Norfolk led all of Minor League Baseball with 60 one-run games this season…The win was Norfolk's fourth this season when trailing after eight innings of play…Carlos Marmol had only blown one save in 14 chances during the regular season…Sharlon Schoop doubled and scored two runs, and he's now hit .357 (5-14) with three doubles this series.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.