Conrad Gregor got off to a slow start in his first pro season, but he's heating up at just the right time for Tri-City.
The Astros prospect went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs on Wednesday as the ValleyCats held on for a 5-4 victory over State College and forced a decisive third game in the New York-Penn League Championship Series.
Gregor gave Tri-City an early lead with his second playoff homer, a solo shot in the second inning.
"I was just looking for something to drive with a 1-0 fastball and I was able to get the barrel on it," he said. "It was important to get off to a good start. Pitching and defense win championships, so we needed to give them a few runs."
The Astros' fourth-round pick in this year's Draft singled home Jack Mayfield in the sixth, then scored on Jon Kemmer's double as the ValleyCats opened a 5-0 lead. The four-run outburst proved crucial as the Spikes scored four times in the bottom of the inning.
"Whenever you can squeak in a big inning in a championship game, it gives a lot of momentum," Gregor said. "It was definitely a momentum-changer, as the final score indicated. It gave us a little bit of a break, where we can go out and play relaxed."
Gregor got off to a slow start after being drafted out of Vanderbilt University, batting .235 in 14 games in June. After posting a .259 average in July, he hit .324 in August and went 5-for-9 in September. He's batting .375 with two homers and three RBIs in four postseason games.
"There's a saying that it's not how you start, it's how you finish," Gregor said. "It's a cliche, but it's true. It was just a great learning experience. I know it's short-season, but you're going to have months where you're not swinging the bat well. But it's about not losing your confidence at the plate."
ValleyCats starter Michael Feliz (1-0) gave up four runs -- two earned -- on five hits over 5 2/3 innings for the win. Tyler Brunnemann followed with 1 1/3 scoreless frames and Gonzalo Sanudo pitched around two hits over the final two innings for his third playoff save.
"We needed that," Gregor said. "[Michael] kind of, his last inning of work, lost a little bit of steam, but our bullpen didn't miss a beat coming in. There's a lot of confidence in the bullpen. Whoever they give the ball to, we know we have a great chance to win the game with the number of arms we have."
David Washington and Luis Perez both had two hits and an RBI for the Spikes, who host Game 3 on Thursday night. Jimmy Reed will pitch for State College, while Kyle Westwood counters for Tri-City.