Steele Walker walked up to the plate in the ninth inning with a chance to make some history. He didn't disappoint.The 10th-ranked White Sox prospect singled to complete the cycle, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs and a run scored, as Class A Advanced Winston-Salem defeated Carolina, 6-2, on Friday at
Steele Walker walked up to the plate in the ninth inning with a chance to make some history. He didn't disappoint.
The 10th-ranked White Sox prospect singled to complete the cycle, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs and a run scored, as Class A Advanced Winston-Salem defeated Carolina, 6-2, on Friday at Five County Stadium.
Someone of Walker's pedigree had to have done this in a game before, even if it was Little League, right?
"Never in my life at any level," the left-handed hitter said. "I've never done that, so that's why it's cool. Honestly, it feels like freedom."
After grounding out in the first, Walker smacked a two-run homer to right field off right-hander Nelson Hernandez in the fourth. The 22-year-old tripled to left to plate another run in the sixth and get the hardest half of the cycle out of the way.
Gameday box score
Walker doubled to left-center with one out in the eighth, which is when his chance at hitting for the cycle hit him.
"It didn't come into my mind until the double," he said. "So I hit the double and then three pitches after, a thought popped into my head, 'Oh my gosh, I've done everything but the single tonight.' It was just a random thought and when I went to the dugout everyone was like, 'You've got to get up again.'"
The center fielder wasn't exactly confident he would get that chance.
"I didn't," Walker said. "They changed pitchers and the dude was throwing pretty hard. Usually, when you hit in the eighth you don't hit in the ninth. But then again, everyone was pulling for me, kind of like you do when you are behind in the game, so I said, 'There's a good chance I get up.' And, thankfully, I did."
The Texas native put his name in the Carolina League record book by singling to left-center off Justin Topa with two outs in the ninth, scoring Evan Skoug. Walker gave some credit to teammate Mitch Roman for allowing him to focus in that last at-bat.
"I was on deck and Roman, the first pitch he swung at, he just whiffed and he started laughing," he said. "Afterwards, I was like, 'I needed to see that.' It reminded me that it's just a game. We can get so lost in it."
Of course, knocking a ball into one of the alleys or down the line could have set up a major decision for Walker -- one that a fan joked with him about while he waited in the on-deck circle.
"I'm on deck about to get my next at-bat with one out, so I know I'm going to hit and a fan screams at me, 'Hey, Steele, if you hit one in the gap, are you going to second?'" Walker said. "I started laughing and said, 'Yeah, I think I have to go to second if that happens.' Obviously, [put] the team before myself. But I just found a hole on a ground ball, so it didn't have to come to that predicament. It's a hard one to be in, especially when you are winning."
The University of Oklahoma product became the first member of the Dash to hit for the cycle since Mason Robbinson April 27, 2016 against Lynchburg.
A second-round pick in last year's Draft, Walker raised his batting average 25 points to .246 with three homers, four triples, 15 doubles, 29 RBIs and 22 runs scored in 54 games between Winston-Salem and Class A Kannapolis. The adjustment to the higher level has the outfielder focusing on what happens between the ears when it comes to the game.
"I'm learning how mental baseball is," he said. "At the level underneath this, I felt really comfortable and confident. I felt like I was really settled in, so you are ready to progress. When you change environments, you change coaches. You change teammates. You change your living situation. Off-the-field stuff changes. Relationships change. And you're supposed to be the same guy on the field every single day.
"It is the mental side of being able to be free of all the distractions, all of the outside pressure … and just being able to play. I've noticed that the best players are able to do that, and it's a skill that I'm learning. Tonight was a good example of me being able to be free."
Roman finished 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored for the Dash.
Lefty John Parke (4-2) picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out three over six innings. Right-hander Codi Heuer followed with three scoreless frames to pick up his second save.
Hernandez (6-5) gave up four runs and six hits over six innings.
Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.