LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett Stripers have flexed their muscles throughout the 2019 season, but not to the extend they did in Friday night’s game with the Norfolk Tides.
The Stripers pounded out 14 total hits, including six home runs, which tied a Gwinnett/Richmond franchise record, in a 13-7 victory before 4,226 fans at Coolray Field.
Alex Jackson homered twice on the evening, while Rafael Ortega, Travis Demeritte, Sean Kazmar Jr. and Jack Lopez each went deep once as Gwinnett (28-19) raised its International League-leading homer total to 83 on the season.
The last time the Stripers, who have hit five homers in a game multiple times this season and have a franchise-record 50 homers in the month of May, hit six roundtrippers in a game was May 13, 2013, also against Norfolk.
Meanwhile, eight of the nine hitters in the Gwinnett lineup had at least one hit as they pulled within a half-game of Durham in the IL South Division.
“I don’t know if you ever get used to (games like this),” said Kazmar, who finished the night 3-for-4 with the homer and two RBIs. “We’re all kind of feeding off one another. It seems like one through nine (in the batting order) we’re putting together good at bats. Good things are going to happen when we’re able to do that.”
Even after Norfolk starter Josh Rogers (2-4) set down the Stripers in order in the bottom of the first, it was apparent that it could be a big offensive night for them, with all three outs by Ortega, Demeritte and Adam Duvall were sharply hit.
And an inning later, Jackson got the Gwinnett hit parade started by blasting a majestic 457-foot shot off the top of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field for a 1-0 lead.
But the Stripers were far from done, with Lopez sending a sacrifice fly to the warning track to make the score 2-0, and Ortega adding a three-run homer to onto the berm in right-center to cap a five-run outburst and a 5-0 lead after two complete innings.
Norfolk (20-25) got one of those runs back in the top of the third on Zach Vincenj’s solo homer, but the Stripers were at it again in the bottom of the inning.
This time, LaMarre got things started with a triple into the right field corner before coming home on Pedro Florimon’s RBI single, followed by Kazmar and Lopez going back-to-back with the longball.
Luis Marte then followed with a double and scored on two separate errors on the play as Gwinnett set eight men to the plate with five scoring for the second straight inning and a 10-1 lead.
“It’s always important any time you put together some good ABs and score some runs and they come back and score, it’s always good to take that momentum back,” Kazmar said. “We were able to do that pretty well (Friday) night.”
The Stripers needed to do that once more on the evening after Ben Rowen, normally a relief pitcher and making just the third start of his career, was pulled after pitching four solid innings, allowing just three hits and one run with a strikeout.
Norfolk struck for three runs off Shane Carle (2-0) in the top of the fifth, but Gwinnett got that run back in the bottom of the inning after two were out with nobody on when Kazmar single and came around to score on Lopez’s RBI double to make the score 11-4.
Then in the sixth, the Stripers came up with another power surge with solo homers by Demeritte and Jackson, the latter his second of the night and the 10th of the year for both hitters, to push the lead back to 11 runs at 13-4.
Norfolk would plate three more runs off Thomas Burrows in the seventh on an RBI double by Ryan Mountcastle, a single by Chance Sisco and a fielder’s choice grounder by former Atlanta Brave Jace Peterson to pull to within 13-7.
But A.J. Minter would make sure the Tides would get no closer by tossing two dominating innings in which he set down all six hitters, five of them on strikeouts to end the game.
In addition to Kazmar, four other Stripers had multiple hits on the night, with Jackson (2-for-4, 2 HRs, 2 RBIs), Lopez (2-for-3, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs), LaMarre (2-for-4) and Marte (2-for-4) each adding a pair of hits.
The series continues Saturday at 6:05 p.m. at Coolray Field. The Stripers have not announced a starting pitcher after originally-scheduled starter Kyle Wright was recalled by the Braves earlier Friday. Left-hander Luis Ysla (2-2, 4.66 ERA) gets the start for Norfolk.