Last August, Darnell Sweeney batted for Class A Great Lakes in the bottom of the eighth inning, a home run shy of his first cycle at any level. He ripped a ball to right field, sending Lansing's Chris Hawkins to the warning track. Sweeney headed toward first, watching and hoping, then disappointingly hitting the jets as the ball bounced off the top of the wall two feet shy of the yellow line.
A little over eight months later, Sweeney got his cycle Tuesday night, holding at second on a shot down the right-field line in the sixth inning to complete the feat as Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga cruised past Inland Empire, 9-3.
"I'm not going to lie, I was thinking about it," Sweeney said of his sixth-inning double. "A lot of people will say, 'No, I wasn't really thinking about it,' but honestly, I knew I needed a double.
"I drove it down the right-field line and I think I could've maybe made it to third, but I pulled up at second. [Manager Carlos Subero] held me up at second."
The 2012 13th round Draft pick homered in his first at-bat at LoanMart Field, driving Austin Wood's offering over the right-field wall. He tripled leading off the third and delivered an RBI single in the fourth. He struck out in his final at-bat, finishing with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs.
The performance put a cap on a breakout nine-game span for Sweeney. The University of Central Florida product hit .241 over his first 21 games, but is batting .385 since going 2-for-4 against Lake Elsinore on April 28.
"I've worked on getting a little more separation when it comes to hitting and getting my foot down," Sweeney said. "I'm trying to see pitches and recognize pitches more. I'm getting a little more on the aggressive side rather than the passive side.
"What [hitting coach Johnny Washington] has been telling me, it's working. I'm blessed to have him on the staff right now. He's helping me along the way and it's always nice to have somebody in your corner who knows the game."
Tuesday's historic effort raised his average 22 points to .287. The 22-year-old shortstop hit .291 with 17 stolen bases in 51 Midwest League games last season, turning a few heads after posting disappointing numbers at UCF in 2012.
"Being a college junior, everybody wants to get drafted, and I think I pressed myself too much my junior year in college," he said. "Now I've gotten the opportunity and I had to just go out and play. I don't want to do too much. I came in a little under the radar, so now I'm just going out there and playing and making the best of the opportunity.
"Now it's starting to click and I'm feeling a little more consistent. I'm happy that whatever I did today, I can hopefully do it more often so I can be consistent throughout the year."
Rancho Cucamonga scored in each of the first six innings. Ryan Mount smacked a two-run homer in the fifth and Scot Schebler doubled twice, drove in a run and scored once.
Duke von Schamann (4-1) won his fourth straight start, allowing two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts over six innings.
For the 66ers, Zach Borenstein had three hits, including his California League-leading 10th homer in the ninth inning. Zach Wright also went yard.