Rancho Cucamonga outfielder Nick Buss
split last season between Class A and Class A Advanced, and now he's back at the higher level and enjoying a breakout year as both a hitter and a base stealer.
The 24-year-old Michigan native is the hottest man in the Quakes lineup, batting .415 with 15 RBIs over his last 10 games. For the season, he's hitting .314 with 11 homers in 388 at-bats. He has 21 walks to 49 strikeouts and is pacing the team with 24 stolen bases, putting him in the top 10 in the league.
"[I'm] feeling comfortable up there, which is easy to do when the team is doing well," said Buss, who hails from Clinton Township, about an hour outside of Detroit.
He played in a Catholic high school league and faced elite competition, something he said prepared him for well for the next levels. Buss moved on to collegiate ball at Southern California and had a unique opportunity to play in the Alaskan Baseball League in 2008, where he led the circuit with a .369 batting average and 29 steals with the Kenai Peninsula Oilers.
"It was a different world from what I'm used to," he said. "It gets warmer up north near Fairbanks, but Kenai was cool because it was right by the water. It was also 'cool' with the long days -- 22 hours of sunshine."
Buss, an eighth-round pick in 2008, started in center field for the Trojans in his final year and has branched out to other positions during his Los Angeles Dodgers career. He's seen significant reps in left field this year as well.
Buss and the rest of the Quakes have had to roll with changes while fighting for a playoff spot. They've already qualified for the postseason by virtue of winning the first-half title, and they sit only one game behind Lake Elsinore in the second-half standings.
It would mean a lot to the Quakes to finish strong as they head into the postseason. They will have to do it without key players who helped them win the first half, like catcher Gorman Erickson and shortstop Jake Lemmerman, who were both promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.
"Both those guys are tremendous players," Buss said. "Someone new is always coming in. It works well with the team, and we've been able to keep winning."
Blaze lose heat: Bakersfield has lost three of their last four games to slip into last place in the North Division second-half standings. They're six games behind Modesto and Stockton, who are tied for the lead at 29-21. San Jose sits one game behind, followed by Visalia and their 25-25 record.
New and good: High Desert lefty Nathan Reed has been a revelation for the Mavericks over his last two starts, and his latest was a gem. He threw seven shutout innings Aug. 12 against Stockton, scattering six hits without walking a batter. Since coming up from Class A Clinton, Reed has struck out 19 batters over 17 2/3 innings and walked only three.
Heston all right: San Jose right-hander Chris Heston has been money for the Giants over his last two starts. He is 1-0 with 13 strikeouts and one run allowed in 13 innings. Last month he went 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts, including a complete game against Visalia on July 24.