With the bases loaded in the sixth inning and a home run already etched next to his name on the score sheet, Winston-Salem outfielder Grant Buckner was thinking about fly balls.
"With a runner on third and less than two outs, I was thinking about getting that runner in," he said.
Buckner let go a fly ball and then some, scorching a 410-foot homer over the left-field fence as part of a seven-RBI, two-homer game in the Class A Advanced Dash's 15-6 win over the Carolina Mudcats.
"I got some good backspin on it and it kept carrying," he said. "I don't know where they come up with those numbers, but if they say it went over 400 feet, I'll take it."
The RBIs were the most by a Winston-Salem player in the Dash era (2009-present) and marked a career high for Buckner. The right-handed hitter's previous high for RBIs this season was two, and the 2011 26th round Draft pick entered the game with two homers and 24 RBIs in 51 games this year. He also added his second steal of the season.
The multi-home run game was Buckner's first since college. The Chicago White Sox farmhand was a standout performer at West Virginia University and had a few multi-home run games as a Mountaineer, including a three-dinger, 10-RBI game as a junior that included a grand slam.
Hitting eighth in the Dash batting order, Buckner homered in his first at-bat in the bottom of the second. He turned on a middle-in 0-1 fastball to snap a 3-3 tie and put Winston-Salem ahead to stay.
Winston-Salem added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on Kevan Smith's homer. Smith, a University of Pittsburgh product selected in the seventh round in 2011, was once Buckner's rival in the Big East Conference.
The two have been roommates since playing together in the Appalachian League in 2011, and were both major contributors in Sunday's win. Smith also doubled, drove in three runs and scored twice.
Prior to Buckner's grand slam in the bottom of the sixth, Chicago's top prospect Courtney Hawkins, drove in a run with a double -- his first hit since returning from the disabled list.
The 6-foot-3, 220 pound outfielder has struggled thus far in the Carolina League, posting a .179 average and a .697 OPS in 24 games. Despite that, Buckner thinks Hawkins has a bright future.
"He's got his best baseball ahead of him," Buckner said. "I've never seen anybody with that type of power. He's still only 19 years old. He's learning, and he's eager to learn. I think he's a great center fielder.
"Once he gets a few more at-bats under his belt, gets a little more experience, the sky is the limit for that kid."
After Hawkins' RBI double, Mark Haddow was hit by a pitch and Rangel Ravelo drew a walk, setting up Buckner's grand slam. He also singled in a run in the third and walked in the bottom of the fifth.
"In hitter's counts, I've been looking to turn on some more balls," Buckner said. "That's one thing I've been trying to work on. Today that worked a couple of times for me. Hopefully, that keeps going the rest of the first half and carries over into the second half."