The Hudson Valley Renegades have had a busy couple weeks, fighting heavy rain storms, soaring temperatures and holiday weekend traffic while trying to cram games in whenever they can.
But Hunter Lockwood has kept his cool through the delays, heat waves and traffic jams. And Wednesday, he continued his impressive first season in the New York-Penn League with a career night.
Lockwood went 5-for-5 with two homers and six RBIs in short-season Hudson Valley's 11-3 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
"Never ever," said Lockwood when asked about having a game like this before. "This is definitely toward the top. It's a great feeling to do this for the fans that come out and want to see us perform. I was just trying to hit some balls hard and give the club a chance to win. I was able to do that tonight.
"It's definitely a confidence booster. When you play at this high level, you want to come out the next day and stay at that level and build on that progression."
Lockwood hit an RBI single to left field in the first inning and pulled another base hit to left again in the third. He cracked a two-out, three-run homer down the left-field line in the fourth, beat out an infield single down the third base in the sixth and capped his evening with a two-run dinger to center field.
It was the first multi-homer game of his pro career, and the hits and RBI totals were also career highs. He had a four-hit, four-RBI game in a 14-3 rout over Staten Island on July 26 and recorded another four-RBI game three nights later in Aberdeen after smacking a first-inning grand slam.
"[Julian Merryweather] threw a pitch in and I was trying to find something hard to hit," Lockwood said of his first homer. "He had been throwing me some soft stuff and I figured he would throw something hard inside. [It was a] 2-2 fastball and I tagged it.
"[Second homer], really I was just looking for something to hit. New guy on the mound and I was trying to see something elevated. Second pitch, a 1-0 changeup, [David Speer] left it over the heart of the plate."
The designated hitter has had an eventful 10 days. He smacked three long balls in five games over the holiday weekend, including a game in which he missed hitting for the cycle by a triple July 5 on Staten Island.
On July 1-2, the Renegades and Cyclones played a home-and-home two-game mini-series. Then Hudson Valley played a July 4 game in Staten Island, traveled back north along the river to host the Baby Bombers the following night and drove back to Staten Island again for a third game against the Yankees on July 6.
From there, the Renegades played 28 innings over four games in 22 hours against the Brooklyn Cyclones on Coney Island. Lockwood played in three of those four contests, homering in the second game of the second doubleheader.
"It was a tough week for our guys," Renegades manager Tim Parenton said. "We had a couple trips to the city and back, but we have a great group of guys and they did what they were supposed to do. It really put a lot of pressure on the team, but the guys handled it well.
"Hunter has been swinging the bat really well. He understands what pitchers are trying to do and how they are trying to get him out. It's a big confidence booster for him."
Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 11th round of the 2013 Draft, the 21-year-old credits a lot of his success to Renegades hitting coach Manny Castillo.
"I'm trying to stay back and let the ball travel to me," Lockwood said. "I've been getting out in front so I've been trying to incorporate some of the things I've been working on in the cage with Manny. I get overaggressive some times. I just have to stay cool, calm and collected."
Renegades second baseman Jace Conrad went 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored and first baseman Casey Gillaspie, who was selected in the first round of last month's Draft and hits in front of Lockwood, was 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
"He is very good around the bag over there and he makes all the plays at first," Parenton said of Gillaspie, whom the Rays signed for a little over $2 million. "He's starting to swing the bat better and he's hitting the ball well. He is a very talented kid. He works hard and he's working hard to get better. That is what you want with a guy drafted in the position he was."
Oscar Armenta (2-0) allowed a run on three hits and six walks while striking out four batters over six innings in the triumph.