Grant Koch did something that a Hoppers' hitter hadn't accomplished in 12 years Friday night - hit three home runs in a game.
The catcher, who came into the game with four home runs for the season, became the first Hoppers' batter to hit three in a game since Scott Cousins pulled off the feat on Aug. 22, 2007.
Koch, batting №8 in the lineup, flied out in his first at-bat, then homered in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings. All were solo shots and all came on 3-and-2 counts.
"When it's 3-2, it's really not about the home runs or anything like that," Koch told Joe Bloss of the web site milb.com. "It's just stay alive. Just try to get bat on ball and hit something hard. That's all I was trying to do. Because I know if I try to get too big and try to hit another one, that's when you don't hit it. That's when you strike out or try to do too much. That's where things go wrong.
"For me, when two strikes come, you battle. You try to swing at those pitches. I was just fortunate enough to get those pitches a little bit elevated."
Koch was the Pirates' 5th-round pick out of Arkansas last summer. He played in 40 games in the New York-Penn League and hit just .188 with two homers and 11 RBIs. He has been the Hoppers' primary catcher this year, appearing in 92 games, and has handled pitchers well.
It had been a disappointing season at bat, until Friday. That brought his totals to seven homers, 33 RBIs and a .200 batting average. He hit .233 in the first half of the season and made the Northern Division All-Star team, but just .162 in the second half.
"That's a big positive this year, the fact that we were able to win games with me behind the plate," he told Bloss. "As long as I'm affecting the game positively, whether it's offensively or defensively, then that's all I want to do."
The win lifted the Hoppers' record to 78-57 for the season.
I remember watching Cousins' three-homer game in 2007. I double-checked the box score and found he hit a two-run homer in the first inning, a grand slam in the second, walked in the fourth, grounded out in the sixth and added a three-run homer in the eighth inning.
"Guys kept getting on base ahead of me and that put pressure on the pitchers and forced them to throw strikes," Cousins said after the game. "I was able to zone in on a pitch. The first homer came on a fastball, the second on a hanging slider and the third on a fastball."
As I recall, his nine RBIs were the most by any minor-leaguer in a game that season. With his grand slam, 3-run homer and 2-run homer, Cousins was a solo shot short of hitting a "home run cycle."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.