Having collected more than two hits just once this season, Willi Castro entered Friday looking for a breakout game.
He got it.
The Indians' No. 5 prospect plated five runs, going 4-for-5 with three doubles to help Double-A Akron erase an early six-run deficit and pound Richmond, 14-6, at Canal Park. Castro boosted his batting average 17 points to a season-high .249.
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"It was great and definitely not surprising at all," RubberDucks hitting coach Kevin Howard said. "He's gradually gotten better all season, and he's a very mature guy compared to the 18-year-old I saw three years ago in Mahoning Valley. Now he goes about his work like a professional. He's very serious and focused with everything he does."
Howard attributed Castro's slow start to getting too on top of or underneath pitches. Recently, he's seen the shortstop find rhythm at the plate and swing with more power.
"He's continuing to see the ball better every day, and that's always a big indication of how a hitter is progressing," he said. "He's taking more off-speed stuff down out of the zone than the past and he's controlling the strike zone more like an upper-level player."
Video: Castro's two-run double for RubberDucks
With the help of four singles and aggressive baserunning in the first inning, the Flying Squirrels jumped to a 4-0 lead. Jerry Sands extended it with a two-run shot in the top of the second, but Castro began to spark Akron's comeback in the bottom half.
His single to right field in that frame kicked off a three-run rally. In the third, he scored the tying run after plating two with a double to right. An inning later, he ripped another two-run double, fueling a two-out, six-run outburst for the RubberDucks.
"We have the type of team where everyone plays to win every game, whereas some teams in the Minor Leagues get caught up in hits or other things," Howard said. "Not this special group. They're out there trying to play to win, and that's all the guys, not just Willi.
"But he's no exception. He's very determined to put the team in a position to win, and that's part of what makes him special."
After striking out in the sixth, Castro knocked his third double of the evening with a line drive to center.
It was his first four-hit game since Aug. 12, when he went 4-for-6 with three doubles for Class A Advanced Lynchburg. The five RBIs are one short of the career high he set on July 17, 2016 with Class A Lake County, when he hit his first professional grand slam.
Joe Sever contributed three hits, including a pair of doubles. Rehabbing Lonnie Chisenhall delivered a two-run double and walked twice.
Dominic DeMasi (4-1) overcame the rough start by limiting Richmond to one hit over his final 4 2/3 frames. Overall, he gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.