Austin Hays closed out a breakout first half for Class A Advanced Frederick with the best game of his career.
The Orioles No. 7 prospect homered twice and set professional bests with five hits, six RBIs, four runs and 13 total bases to lead the Keys over the Lynchburg Hillcats, 11-5, on Sunday.
"I think I had a five-hit game in college, but this is definitely the best professional game I've ever had," said Hays, who skipped Class A. "I expected to come here and have success. I know I'm a good player and can compete at a high level. I'm just very excited to see that I've had a good first part of the season against a lot of good pitchers and position players, which has definitely helped me become a better player in the process."
Hays legged out an infield single to third base and then came around to score on Ademar Rifaela's homer to left field in the first inning.
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In his second at-bat, Hays jumped on a first-pitch curveball from Hillcats starter Triston McKenzie (5-4), taking the Indians No. 3 prospect deep to left-center for a three-run blast.
"I put a good swing on a breaking ball that was a pretty decent pitch," the 2016 third-round pick said. "McKenzie probably threw it where he wanted to, but I was able to get a good swing on it. I know he's got a lot of strikeouts and doesn't allow too many walks. I was trying to be aggressive if I got anything in the zone because I knew he was going to pound the zone."
Rifaela followed with his second dinger two batters later, giving him four in his last two games.
"He's putting a lot of good swings on balls," Hays said of his teammate. "It doesn't matter if it's high, low, in or out he's finding a way to get the barrel to it and hitting the ball really hard."
Hays collected his third hit in as many innings with a RBI double to right, putting him a triple short of the cycle.The 21-year-old almost completed the feat in his next trip, but settled for his second two-bagger because Ricardo Andujar was held at third base.
"It's funny, when I hit the second double, it was a line drive to left. It kind of kicked off the wall so there was a chance to get to third, but [Andujar] was on first and he was held up at third, so I stopped at second. So I may have had a shot at the triple," Hays said.
The Jacksonville University product got one more shot at the feat in his last at-bat, but instead bashes his second homer of the night and third in his past two games.
"I'd rather have had the second homer there than the triple and the cycle," he said with a laugh.
It was the second multi-homer tilt of the season for Hays, who belted three taters on May 24.
In 64 games this season, the Florida native has produced a .328/.364/.592 slash line with 16 homers and 41 RBIs. Hays' 155 total bases lead the Carolina League and rank second in the Minors, trailing Phillies' No. 11 prospect Scott Kingery, who has 156 for Double-A Reading.
"When the ball leaves the infield, I'm always thinking two," Hays said. "The more bases the better. The more times I can get into scoring position, the more my teammates can drive me in. Every time I put the ball in play, I'm trying to get to the next base and I'm thinking about the next 90 feet."
Despite the loss, Lynchburg clinched the Carolina League Northern Division first-half title after Salem was swept by Wilmington in a doubleheader.