No ballplayer ever plans to wind up in the independent leagues. The best-case scenario at that point would be to latch back on with an affiliated club and do something to draw some notice.
Cyle Hankerd did just that Thursday night.
The Double-A Arkansas outfielder gave the Travelers a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-5 Texas League semifinal series against the Drillers when he drilled a three-run shot in the ninth inning to give Arkansas the edge in a 4-1 victory over Tulsa.
"I've been trying to do everything I can to help our team win, especially in the playoffs, and to finally contribute right there was great," Hankerd said. "[The team] loved it, gave us a lot of energy, everyone going crazy."
Counting the regular season, it was just the 37th appearance with the Travelers for the 28-year-old this year after he spent the bulk of his year in the independent Atlantic League.
He hit .325/.411/.615 in 74 games with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem last year before producing a .322/.396/.641 line in 81 indy-league games this season. He had feared he might not get the kind of chance the Angels provided him with.
"You know your goal, when you're in independent ball, is to get picked up -- whether it be Taiwan or somewhere down in Mexico, or ultimately, affiliated ball is the goal. It was getting late in the season and I was getting a little anxious, but the time was right when they called and I just jumped right on," he said. "It feels awesome, they sign me out of independent ball to help this team make the playoffs, to win in the playoffs and that's just what I'm trying to do."
Hankerd wound up hitting .260/.351/.433 in his 35 regular-season Texas League games. He finished 2-for-5 on Thursday.
Randal Grichuk also went yard in the fifth inning to draw the game even after Tulsa notched its only tally in the first inning.
Lay Batista did not figure into the decision, despite holding the Drillers to one run on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Roberto Coello picked up the win with a perfect eighth and Mike Morin followed with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
Up 2-0 in the series, Hankerd said the Travelers feel confident in their clubhouse.
"As a team we're picking each other up when we need it, the team chemistry is great and we're just looking to carry it on tomorrow," he said.
In other action:
San Antonio 2, Corpus Christi 0
The Missions evened their series with the Hooks, 1-1, after winning their latest close game. Yeison Asencio went 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI to power the San Antonio offense. Adam Buschini added an RBI double.