Travis Demeritte burst out of the gate on Thursday night and didn't look back. Leading off for Class A Advanced High Desert, the Rangers' No. 21 prospect recorded the first hit, scored the first run of the California League season and produced a game to remember.
"It's huge. To get the season off on the right foot, that's big for us," Demeritte said. "We had a goal and we came in and accomplished it."
The 21-year-old second baseman went 3-for-4 with two homers, four RBIs, three runs scored and a sacrifice fly in the Mavericks' 10-5 thrashing of visiting Inland Empire.
"Batting leadoff is something that's new for me," Demeritte said. "I wanted to give the team that spark and be a catalyst. Luckily, I got some good pitches and put my 'A' swing on the ball, and good things happened tonight."
Demeritte, selected 30th overall in the 2013 Draft, hit 25 dingers in the Class A South Atlantic League in his first full season but missed 80 games in 2015. After that suspension, he said he has something to prove this year.
"I do to myself," he said. "I know what I'm capable of and I haven't been playing up to my full potential. Obviously, with what happened last year, I was sidelined by that incident. Now I have a chip on my shoulder to go out and play as well as I can play this season."
In his first at-bat, the Georgia high school product legged out a grounder to short for an infield hit, feeling he had a job to do as table-setter.
"I made sure I hustled off the line to give my teammates the best opportunity to bat with a runner on," he said. "I wanted come out aggressive and play hard, make the defense make plays and put pressure on them."
Each of the right-handed hitter's homers -- a second-inning solo shot off No. 8 Angels prospect Jake Jewell and a two-run blast in the sixth off Keynan Middleton -- came on line drives to left field. While the one in the sixth was a no-doubter, Demeritte wasn't sure about homer No. 1.
"The first one, the wind was blowing straight across, so I was doubtful. The left fielder gave up on chasing it and that's when I knew it was gone," he said, adding he's aware those kind of borderline balls tend to get out in the Cal League. "That's good for not only me but for the team. It gets everybody's confidence up. The thing here, with this being such a hitter's league is, you can't get out of your approach. I'm not going to let ballparks dictate my approach in each at-bat and each game."
That plan worked in the season opener.
"I had the same approach all night: get a pitch in the zone and put my swing on it," he said. "Fortunately, I got a couple good pitches and I was able to do so, capitalizing on pitchers' mistakes."
Scott Heineman, the Rangers' 11th-round pick last year, was 3-for-3 with two stolen bases and a run scored in his professional debut.
Serving as Inland Empire's designated hitter, top Angels prospect Taylor Ward was 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and a run scored in his Class A Advanced debut.