It's only fitting that the marquee moment in a division-clinching Lancaster victory was a big hit by one of the Astros' top prospects.
On Wednesday night, third baseman Rio Ruiz delivered the surge, bashing a grand slam way over the center-field fence at The Hangar. The long ball was the second of four big flies for the JetHawks, who beat up on Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, 16-3, to lock up the first-half California League South Division title.
Lancaster jumped out to a 3-2 lead on designated hitter Jack Mayfield's homer in the second, and five batters later, Ruiz delivered his four-run blast.
"[Ruiz] got a 3-1 fastball up over the plate and he mashed it," Lancaster manager Rodney Linares said. "He got all of it. … It was a shot."
The Astros' No. 10 prospect finished the game with six RBIs, all in the first three innings. Ruiz sports a .300 average with 43 RBIs and six long balls this season.
"He's been working extremely hard," Linares said. "It's a credit to our hitting coach [Darryl Robinson]. He goes out there every day with those guys, and he's done a great job setting up a program where they're trying to be selectively aggressive, getting our walks and not swinging at balls. That's the key for [Ruiz], is zeroing in on balls he can drive. He's been doing a great job of it."
Lancaster's ascent to the top of its division has been largely powered by its top prospects. The JetHawks' lineup featured four of the team's Top 20 prospects Wednesday, including shortstop Carlos Correa, Ruiz and outfielders Teoscar Hernandez and Danry Vasquez -- Vasquez went 5-for-5 with two doubles on Wednesday. No. 1 Correa (.930 OPS entering Wednesday), Ruiz (.823) and No. 12 Hernandez (.957) have been particularly good, helping Lancaster land among the league leaders in runs scored.
"They're young, but at least guys like Correa and Teoscar, they're really mature for their age," Linares said. "We have so many high-ceiling guys putting it together. The future looks bright for a lot of those guys."
This @JetHawks team is the best minor league team I've seen. Loaded with talent and about to clinch a playoff spot. Truly special!- Jeff Luhnow (@jluhnow) June 12, 2014
The team has also gotten impressive performances out of left-hander Josh Hader and right-hander Kyle Westwood. The pair rank second (2.34) and third (2.75) respectively in the league in ERA and have a combined 11-3 record in 28 appearances.
The Dodgers' No. 3 prospect Julio Urias was scheduled to start for Rancho Cucamonga, but the left-hander was scratched prior to the game. The Quakes said Urias was held out to help limit the 17-year-old's innings, especially since he may pitch in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game next week.
Tulsa 2, Arkansas 1
Shortstop Cristhian Adames was the hero as Tulsa wrapped up the Texas League North Division first-half title. Adames earned a postgame Gatorade shower by knocking a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth as the Drillers rallied to victory. Tulsa -- bolstered by its pitching staff through most of the first half -- got five innings from left-hander Carlos Hernandez, who allowed a run on four hits while striking out three. Gameday box score
South Atlantic League
Savannah at Kannapolis (Canceled)
The Sand Gnats were rained out, but when the game was canceled, the squad was ensured a playoff berth for the fourth time in five seasons with the first-half South Atlantic League Southern Division title. Among the leaders for Savannah in the first half have been infielders Jeff McNeil (.341, 20 doubles) and L.J. Mazzilli (.304, team-leading 43 RBIs).