A year ago, Steve McQuail was on the outside looking in. Now he's on the inside hitting the ball out of the park.
The Arizona prospect homered three times and drove in five runs as Class A Advanced Visalia routed Stockton, 13-3, in Game 1 of the California League North Division miniseries Wednesday.
McQuail, who collected four hits, slugged a solo homer in the second inning. After singling home a run in the fourth, the 25-year-old first baseman launched a two-run homer in the sixth and a solo blast in the eighth as the Rawhide broke the game open with seven runs over the final three frames.
"I feel great," McQuail said. "I would put that as probably one of the best games of my life, if not the best, because that's the first time I've ever hit three homers in one game. It's always in my mind after I hit two I want to get that third one, and I just so happened that I was able to hit it tonight."
McQuail, originally drafted by Toronto in the 30th round in 2010, had been out of affiliated baseball since 2011 before he signed a Minor League deal in October with Arizona. The New York native split the year between Class A South Bend and Visalia, sprinkling in two games with Triple-A Reno as well. All told, McQuail hit .253 with 17 homers in 80 Minor League games.
"It's really great," he said. "Before the Frontier League, I was with the Blue Jays and I really didn't get a shot at a long season. I had that chip on my shoulder when I was in indy ball. Arizona thankfully has given me that opportunity. I never thought after being released by the Blue Jays I would ever have this opportunity again."
With a chance to wrap up a trip to the semifinals Thursday night in Stockton, taking the first game was important.
"It's great to get the first one, but we have to make sure we keep the same approach and keep things light and just have fun," McQuail said. "When you start to press is when things go bad, so we just have to keep having fun and keep smashing the ball around."
Rudy Flores homered, doubled and drove in four runs while Alex Glenn scored twice for Visalia.
Brandon Sinnery earned the win after giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out five over six innings for the Rawhide.
No. 2 Athletics prospect Matt Olsen collected three hits, including two doubles, and drove in a run for the Ports.
In other California League action:
Inland Empire 4, Lake Elsinore 2
Dennis Raben hit a game-tying RBI double in the eighth inning and gave the 66ers an insurance run with an inside-the-park homer in the ninth in the series opener. He scored in the first on a double by Angel Rosa and in the eighth on Exicardo Cayones' single. Jeremy Baltz stole two bases and plated a run for the Storm. Gameday box score
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.