The Rawhide are one win from their first California League championship since 1978. They got there on the back of Luis Alejandro Basabe.
The D-backs infield prospect went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs as Visalia topped Lake Elsinore, 4-2, on Friday at Recreation Park, grabbing a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Finals.
"He keeps a really low heart rate. He has a good swing path and he swings at strikes," Rawhide manager Shawn Roof said. "Tonight, he put together pro at-bats like he's done all year and he was able to take advantage of some pitches over the plate and drive a couple runs in."
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Basabe doubled off starter Caleb Boushley in the first inning to bring home No. 7 D-backs prospect Geraldo Perdomo. Facing the right-hander again in the third, the Venezuela native singled to drive in top D-backs prospect Alek Thomas.
Padres No. 14 prospect Gabriel Arias belted a two-run homer off right-hander Justin Lewis to tie the game for the Storm in the fourth, but Basabe wasn't finished. He singled again in the seventh, plating Thomas all the way from first base. Basabe advanced to second while a close play unfolded at home and later scored on a knock by Max Murphy.
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The clutch hitting was an exclamation point on what has been a quietly strong campaign from Basabe. He began the year, his second at the Class A Advanced level, batting fifth or sixth for the Rawhide. His average was below .250 in both slots. But Roof liked his consistency, so after some players were promoted to Double-A Jackson, Basabe moved up to the three-spot and hit .300 with 41 walks against 51 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. That's no fluke.
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"He's a switch-hitter," Roof noted. "He stays through the middle of the field. When you do that and you have good plate selection like he does, that's what allows him to have success."
Basabe is 23. He's yet to play at Double-A. But he's matured in the middle of the Rawhide lineup in what's also been his first year as a father. Roof sees no problem in that.
"Just to see him have more confidence and grow and learn -- every kid learns at a different age," the manager said. "Some kids learn at 18 years old and some it happens when they're a little bit older."
Game 4 is Saturday night in Visalia.