Bandits' Holberton cycles on 5-for-5 day

Astros prospect is first to accomplish feat for Quad Cities since 2005

Brian Holberton entered Sunday with eight extra-base hits in 22 Midwest League contests. (Sean Flynn Photography)

By Ashley Marshall / | May 18, 2014 6:48 PM ET

"Triples are for fast guys."

That was what was Brian Holberton was thinking to himself when he stepped into the box for his fourth at-bat on Sunday having already homered, doubled and singled.

Then the Astros catching prospect laced the first pitch he saw from Michael Wagner over shortstop Carlos Penalver's head into the left-center field gap, and the race was on. Sliding into third base, Holberton was all smiles as he completed Class A Quad Cities' first cycle in nine years and the fifth in the Minor Leagues this season.

Holberton finished 5-for-5 with five RBIs and two runs scored in the River Bandits' 10-3 rout of Kane County at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

"If you hit for the cycle, it has to be a pretty good day," Holberton said. "It always takes a little bit of luck. Looking back, it's pretty amazing. It's definitely up there in my career ... it's one of my best games as a pro."

Holberton doubled in the second inning on a popup that neither middle infielder could find in the sun, then slugged a two-run homer the opposite way to left field off Cougars starter Daury Torrez in the fourth.

It was his third long ball of the season and the eighth of his Minor League career.

"There was a runner on third and no outs, so I was just trying to get a pitch to get up in the air," Holberton said. "It was the second at-bat against this pitcher, so I knew what pitches he was working with. He threw me a fastball middle-in and I just got it up and it carried out. I knew I hit it pretty well, but until the fielder starting running back, I didn't know. I was just focused on getting that run in."

The 21-year-old North Carolina native pulled an RBI single to right field with two outs in the fifth and hit a two-run triple with one out in the seventh.

"It was the first pitch ... just middle-away and I hit it over the shortstop and it rolled to the wall," Holberton said. "They were shading me to pull, so they had to run a little further. Rounding second, I just put my head down.

"I knew I needed [the triple] and the third-base coach [manager Omar Lopez] knew exactly what was going on. There was a runner on first and he knew he had to send him for me to have a shot to get to third. I just couldn't believe it. I started smiling and the dugout was cheering pretty loud."

To make the day even sweeter, Holberton -- who batted sixth as the River Bandits' designated hitter -- singled again in the ninth.

Selected by the Astros in the ninth round of last year's Draft out of the University of North Carolina, Holberton established career highs in hits and RBIs. His two runs scored also tied a personal mark.

Holberton recorded a pair of three-RBI games last summer for Rookie-level Greeneville. He had just one three-hit game, going 3-for-3 and falling a triple shy of the cycle on May 1 in the first game of a doubleheader against Clinton.

The last Quad Cities player to hit for the cycle was Brandon Yarbrough, who did it on April 19, 2005, also in Kane County, when the team was known as the Swing.

Entering Sunday, Holberton had not hit a triple in 59 career Minor League games. In three years as a Tar Heel, he totaled 14 homers, 24 doubles and three triples.

"I would not say I'm slow, but I'm not the fastest guy," Holberton said. "I like to think I'm just a smart baserunner. The triple is the hardest one to get, so I just ran as fast as I could. It was a close play. As soon as I touched second, the cutoff was coming in and as I was sliding in, the ball was coming right by me. It was pretty special when you can do something like that."

The outing raised his batting average 43 points to a season-best .350 and increased his RBI total to 18.

Holberton's career day came less than 24 hours after the River Bandits were no-hit by the Cougars' duo of Tyler Skulina and Nathan Dorris.

"They pitched really well last night, I have to give it to them. They got that no-hitter," Holberton said. "Today just evens it out. It gave us some more energy. It was a fun day today."

Jack Mayfield and Conrad Gregor both went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI for the River Bandits. Jandel Gustave (3-2) allowed a run on three hits over five innings to win his second straight start.

Kane County's Ben Carhart was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, while Jacob Rogers homered, doubled and plated two runs.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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