With one out in the top of the third inning, J.C. Escarra stared down the righty Jose Roca with Robbie Thorburn on first base. He took strike one. On the next pitch, he hammered a line drive into left field that dropped in for his first hit of the night, and he became the all time batting average leader in the seventeen year history of the IronBirds.
In 2013, Trey Mancini was drafted in the 8th round out of Notre Dame and played 68 games with the Aberdeen IronBirds. He posted a batting average of .328 that season and led the IronBirds to a McNamara Division Championship.
His batting average was second best in the New York-Penn League and sat as the best in IronBirds history. On September 3rd, 2018 J.C. Escarra concluded his 2018 campaign with a record breaking average of .331 across 206 plate appearances.
In 17 fewer games, Escarra had the same number of walks, four more homers, and one less RBI than Mancini.
Escarra, the 15th round selection from the 2017 draft, was on the opening day roster after starting the season with the Frederick Keys (A-Adv). In the season's first homestand, he hit .318 over six games with a double, two homers and six runs batted in.
That would be par for the course for Escarra's start to the year. As through the end of June he led the team in average hits (15), RBIs (11), OBP (.467), and homeruns (3) while reaching base safely in every game he played.
After the June 29th game against in Lowell, Escarra missed 26 games. Aberdeen went 10-16 over that stretch. He returned from the injury on July 30th and had two hits in his first eleven at bats.
"It was tough the first two games to get the timing back," Escarra said. "Right after that second game though luckily I picked up where I left off"
He proceeded to go 4-for-5 on August 2nd in Brooklyn. With two at bats left in the game, the lefty had already singled, doubled and tripled. He knocked an RBI double in his final at bat, coming up a homer short of the cycle.
He would continue that and put up 17 hits over seven games.
Escarra was one of five IronBirds selected for the NYPL All-Star game. He remained one of he most consistent pieces of Aberdeen's lineup as a two hole hitter.
With two games left in the season and the IronBirds out of the playoffs, Escarra needed five more plate appearances to qualify (2.7 PA per game scheduled) for the league batting title and the IronBirds record. Escarra was not in the lineup for the first game, but Manager Kyle Moore had a plan.
"I did not know until Sunday when we were down by a lot. K-Mo (Kyle Moore) asked me how I was feeling. I said good and he said he was going to put me in because I was five at bats away from qualifying from the all time average leader, but that's all I knew."
He pinch hit in the 7th and doubled, then struck out his second time. With three more plate appearances to go, J.C. needed a hit, even if he didn't know it.
A groundout in the first gave him two more shots. As J.C. does, he lined a single the opposite way into left field and sealed the deal. After his final plate appearance of 2018, he officially qualified and holds the best average in IronBirds history. He went 59-for-178, hitting .331 across his 206 plate appearances.
When asked about topping big leaguer Trey Mancini, Escarra was all smiles.
"All I know is he rakes and plays a really good first base. I'm trying to follow in his footsteps and play in the big leagues everyday just like him."
.He also leads the IronBirds with a .417 OBP (2nd NYPL), .571 SLG (1st), .929 OPS, 6 homers and 34 RBIs.
Aberdeen's season is over, and Escarra will head home to Florida for the offseason, ready to get started again at spring training in February.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.