Crawdads' Rua fueling home run race

Rangers prospect smacks 21st, 22nd, ties teammate for lead

Ryan Rua has hit four homers in his last five games for Hickory. (Tracy Proffitt/Hickory Crawdads)

By Robert Emrich / Special to | June 15, 2013 7:34 PM ET

While they're not likely to write books or make movies about the South Atlantic League home run race, it has all the makings of an entertaining summer.

Ryan Rua smacked his 21st and 22nd homers to catch Hickory teammate Joey Gallo, who went deep "only" once Saturday night, as the Crawdads cruised to a 12-0 rout of the Delmarva Shorebirds at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Rua, who also doubled, slugged a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two-run blast in the seventh.

"First one was a fastball that ran in and it felt good off the bat, one of those ones that you feel, so you know that you got it," he said. "Second one was a changeup that started in and ran over the plate. I got it off the end of the bat, but I still got enough of it."

Rua would have claimed sole possession of the league lead had Gallo, the Rangers' No. 9 prospect, not homered and driven in four runs. Teammates last summer with short-season Spokane, the rivalry has been a jovial one.

"I got to know him a little in Spokane and got to know him a lot better in Spring Training and we're pretty good friends and we give each other a hard time," said Rua, Texas' 17th-round pick in the 2011 Draft. "We'll joke about [the home run race], but nothing serious."

While the 23-year-old second baseman had a strong campaign in the Northwest League, had totaled seven homers in 74 games and gave no hint of what was to come in his first full season. He credited the work he's put in with Crawdads hitting coach Justin Mashore.

"[He] has been working with me since last year in extended [spring training] and instructionals and Spring Training, and he's really helped me find my swing and get in a good groove," Rua said. "It's something you work on every day, not trying to muscle it out, just letting it happen."

While it may seem oxymoronic to not try to hit homers, the Lake Erie College product was quick to explain that it's not as simple as it may seem.

"A lot of it is pitch recognition and getting in good hitting counts and seeing pitches up in the zone and not lunging forward, staying back and trusting your hands," Rua said.

He also pointed out that Hickory -- one win from clinching a first-half division title -- features five of Texas' top 20 prospects in Gallo, Jorge Alfaro (No. 5), Nomar Mazara (No. 11), Roman Mendez (No. 14) and Nick Williams (No. 20). Mendez did not play Saturday, but the other four combined to go 10-for-20 with five RBIs and six runs scored.

"It's a team that's loaded with potential, so it makes it easier," Rua said.

Crawdads starter Connor Sadzeck (5-2) gave up two hits and struck out five over five scoreless innings to win his third straight decision.

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

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