Dan Gulbransen found himself in a big spot at the plate in the first inning Thursday night and promptly went down swinging with the bases loaded. But he made sure the rest of his evening would be one to remember.
The JetHawks designated hitter doubled in the eighth inning to complete the sixth cycle in team history and drove in a career-high six runs as Class A Advanced Lancaster routed Inland Empire, 16-7.
"There were some guys who had chances for the cycle earlier this year but never ended up getting it. Gulbransen said of conversation in the dugout before the eighth. "They were telling me, 'If you get a single, you need to try to at least stretch it into a double, and if you hit it in the gap, just stop at second.'"
The Appleton, Wisconsin native did just that, lacing a double to right field to cap the feat.
Gulbransen quickly atoned for the first inning when he found himself in a familiar scenario in the third -- with bases loaded and one out. This time, the 23-year-old didn't miss his moment. He drove a triple to right field, plating top Astros prospect Carlos Correa, Roberto Pena and Conrad Gregor to put the JetHawks in front for good.
"This is a very funny game," Gulbransen said. "I struck out that first at-bat, and next thing you know, I'm back up at the plate, the bases are loaded again. I found myself down in the count, and I tried to just battle. That started the day off with the triple. That got it going. We just have a really good team mind-set. We have good approaches at the plate up and down the order, so we're just looking to stick with that as we move forward."
In the fourth, Gulbransen took the spotlight again. With two outs, the Jacksonville University product hammered a three-run shot to right field. The blast was his third of the year, and all three have come against the 66ers. In fact, Gulbransen, a .245 hitter on the season, is batting .314 with a 1.114 OPS and 16 of his 29 total RBIs against Inland Empire this year.
A single in the sixth set the stage for Gulbransen's big moment in the eighth. His teammates were as ready as anyone at The Hangar, and Gulbransen didn't let them down, leading off with the final hit he needed. The double clinched the first cycle for a JetHawks player since Brandon Barnes and Freddy Parejo did it on back-to-back days on June 8 and 9, 2010.
"They went crazy in the dugout, and I felt kind of awkward because I'm a terrible celebrator," Gulbransen said. "I was standing on second base looking toward the dugout, and they were all going crazy. I didn't know what to do. I'm trying to still act professionally, but it was a lot of fun. Having the support of my teammates means a lot."
Eight members of the Lancaster lineup had at least one hit, and five players recorded multi-hit nights in the 16-hit onslaught. Leadoff man Anthony Kemp, No. 12 Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez and No. 10 prospect Rio Ruiz added home runs, and the four dingers were a season high for the JetHawks.
The offensive support helped Lancaster starter Brian Holmes (2-1), who was tagged for four runs on five hits while walking two and striking out two in seven innings.
Inland Empire starter Elliot Morris (1-1) gave up six runs on five hits over 2 1/3 innings for the loss.