NORFOLK, VA — For the first time in five years, Norfolk State University’s baseball program renewed its annual exhibition game with the Norfolk Tides, the triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, at Harbor Park Stadium on April 4. The Spartans showcased several highlights in the seven-inning matchup despite suffering a 14-1 loss against the professional team.
The Spartans notched the first hits of the game with a hit apiece by Jacob Council and Kam Walker in the top of the second. Senior center fielder Dionte Brown collected two hits on the night and scored in the top of the third to secure the Spartans’ first run scored against the Tides since their exhibition game in 2013.
The Spartans also recorded notable performances from the mound. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Noah Wiggins started on the rubber and secured a scoreless first inning before the Tides struck back with 12 runs in the bottom of the second. Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Jackson Sanchez entered the game as the closer for the Spartans and recorded three strikeouts.
NSU tallied one run, four hits and one error to the Tides’ 14 runs, nine hits and two errors.
NSU head baseball coach Keith Shumate was eager to face the Tides ahead of the exhibition game, and stated that the team would benefit from facing off against Tides players who managed to elevate their careers to the professional level.
“This level of triple-A baseball is one step away from the big leagues. College baseball, Division One, is the next highest level to professional baseball. So, I think it gives guys a lot of confirmation, and it can give you a lot of confidence when you do some good things in that ball game,” Shumate said.
Though the chance to compete against the Tides players–many of whom had recently returned from Major League training camp in Sarasota, Florida–is an exciting prospect for NSU’s players, the newly renewed partnership offers more than on-field experience alone.
“It’s great for the community, it’s great for our campus, and it’s great for baseball. It’s a win-win-win,” said Shumate ahead of the exhibition game.
The annual exhibition games between NSU and the Tides began in 2010 and lasted until the last exhibition game in 2017. Under the previous partnership, the Tides organization offered NSU access to its indoor facilities and batting cages. The Tides organization aims to provide resources and opportunities to all NSU students who may be interested in sports-related careers. Tides general manager Joe Gregory explained that the organization plans to offer internships and career opportunities in all of its departments.
“Working in sports isn’t just the game on the field,” Gregory said. “You can have an accounting degree and be the business manager, or we have the food and beverage side of things, or maybe it’s the merchandising side of things … it’s all the aspects around the game of baseball. So, we hope to be able to get more Norfolk State students involved with the team as well.”
The renewal of the annual exhibition game between NSU and the Tides organization may offer both parties the chance to explore the untapped potential of their partnership and build the foundation for another long-lasting tradition.