Cowser's strong debut at Double-A and Henderson hits for cycle (O's lose)

In his first plate appearance at the Double-A level for the Bowie Baysox last night, outfielder Colton Cowser drew a walk. The second time up, in the third inning, he lined a two-run homer to left-center field as Bowie went on to beat Richmond 9-3 Tuesday night at Prince George’s Stadium.

The game featured the Double-A debuts of Cowser, the Orioles No. 4 prospect per, Coby Mayo, ranked No. 7, and Connor Norby, rated No. 10.

Norby led off for Bowie and played second base with Cowser batting second in center field and Mayo hitting third as the designated hitter. Cowser wound up going 3-for-3 with a walk and scoring two runs. Norby went 1-for-4 and Mayo was 0-for-5.

Bowie finished in last place at 27-42 in the first half, but last night the teams began the second half, with every club starting with a clean slate and 0-0 record.

Meanwhile, high Single-A Aberdeen lost those three players after winning the first half title in its division of the South Atlantic League.

But IronBirds hitting coach Zach Cole was happy to see Cowser, Norby and Mayo move on and get promoted. Even if it means his offense just lost a big trio of key players. 

With the Ironbirds, Cowser, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 draft, batted .258/.385/.410 in 62 games with a .795 OPS, 19 doubles, two triples, four homers, 42 runs scored and 22 RBIs. He stole 16-of-17 bases.

“He’s very good at working all fields well and he stays true to the kind of hitter he is,” said Cole of working with Cowser this year. “He can hit balls the other way and get those doubles down the line. We let him be himself. As the year went on he was trying to do damage while dealing with a lot of spin (breaking balls and off-speed pitches). He was seeing a lot of breaking balls this year and it was just getting out of the college realm. In college, he would see more fastballs on the corners and now in the pros he’s learning to recognize the spin and adjust to it.

“For Colton, we weren’t too worried about the stat sheet. He was hitting some balls hard early on but had some bad luck and he would hit it well and a guy was standing there. But he continued to work and in June (when he posted an OPS of .856 in 20 games) he has had some good numbers and some of those hard-hit balls were finding more holes. He just does such a great job day in and day out as a player (and) was such a fun player to be around when he was here.”

Cowser’s strikeout rate at low Single-A Delmarva last season was 15.3 and that shot up to 28.4 this season with Aberdeen. But it was getting better. After he fanned 60 times in 42 games the first two months, he struck out 19 times over 20 games in June.

“That was a focus for sure,” said Cole of Cowser making more consistent contact. “Something he set as a goal for himself to cut down on the strikeouts and he continued to work on handling the off-speed pitches and that made a difference. He just got more reps against those pitches and that helped. He knows he has the capability with two strikes to take the ball the other way.”

Henderson's big night: At Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday night, Gunnar Henderson hit for the cycle as the Tides beat Gwinnett 8-2. Henderson singled in the first, tripled in two runs in the third, hit a solo homer in the fourth and doubled in the sixth. It was a 4-for-4 night with four runs scored and three RBIs for Henderson, now batting .329 with an OPS of 1.077.

Henderson becomes the first player to hit for the cycle since the Tides became the O's Triple-A team in 2007. The last player in franchise history to hit for the cycle was Timo Perez on June 9, 2000.

O's roll is slowed: The Orioles winning ways came to an end last night on Jesse Winker's two-run double in the last of the eighth that snapped a scoreless tie as Seattle won 2-0. The Orioles were held to one hit by lefty Robbie Ray and two relievers. Dean Kremer threw seven scoreless for the Orioles but got a no-decision.

The Orioles (35-41) have still won five of seven, six of nine and 11 of 17 games, but they fell to 4-2 on this road trip with four games to go. 

The clubs play the rubber match of this three-game series today at 4:10 p.m. ET as Austin Voth (0-0, 7.81 ERA) pitches against right-hander Chris Flexen (3-8, 4.31 ERA). 

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