Things didn't start off the way he planned, but as Jared Young reflects on his first Minor League season, he can't help but think about how an old adage applies to him.
"They always say, 'It's not how you start but how you finish,' and I hadn't thought much about it until things started going great," the Cubs prospect said with a laugh. "But it couldn't happen at a better time."
Young collected four hits and a career-high five RBIs on Saturday to lead Class A Short Season Eugene to an 8-3 victory over Salem-Keizer at Volcanoes Stadium.
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old, selected in the 15th round in this year's Draft out of Old Dominion, joined Eugene on July 7 and hit .179 through his first 33 games in the Northwest League. Over the last five contests, however, he's 15-for-24 to raise that average by 78 points. During the streak, Young has produced three four-hit performances and delivered four extra-base hits, including his first home run.
"Things have been good. I've been working with [hitting coach] Chris Valaika and [manager] Jesus [Feliciano] on just the mental aspect of the game, basically," he said. "And it's just taking that to the plate and seeing a fastball and making sure you don't miss them. I didn't have the greatest of starts, and I'll admit that. It was definitely mental, too. It's been a couple of mechanical things that I've been working on, but to go on a streak like this, I think it's more mental, staying the course and not staying too high or too low."
After Zach Davis led off the game with a triple, Young laced a 1-2 pitch from starter Julio Benitez into right field for an RBI single. The native of British Columbia grounded out to start the third, then ripped a single to center to score Davis for the second time.
"He's unreal to hit behind," Young said of Davis, who went 4-for-5 and fell a homer shy of the cycle. "He'll do anything he can to get on base and he's always on base. With his speed, everyone knows he wants to run and everyone's distracted. Maybe that helps me because they always say it's harder to pitch with a good runner on. I might have gotten a few more balls over the plate that I was able to drive. I thank Zach every time he's on."
With one out in the seventh, Eugene got things going when Chris Singleton reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Kirby before Davis legged out an infield hit. Young got ahead in the count, 3-1, against Benitez and fouled off three consecutive pitches. On the eighth pitch, he lined a single up the middle to plate Singleton, but Davis was cut down at the plate on a perfect relay by shortstop Manuel Geraldo.
"[Benitez] missed with a couple of changeups early in the count," Young said. "He kept pounding fastballs and I fouled them all off, but they weren't passive swings -- I was going after them. I felt like I was just missing them and just missing them. I re-geared myself every pitch and said, 'We'll get the next one, we'll get the next one,' and then I was able to come through."
To cap his big night, Young sent a pitch from reliever Cesar Yanez into right field in the ninth for his sixth double of the season. As he stood in scoring position, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder couldn't help but crack a smile after seeing his teammates holler at him from the dugout.
"It's awesome," Young said. "It's a great feeling to be able to contribute. I'll say that the coaches had a big part of that, for sure. They've been working with me and they haven't missed a beat. You're hitting well or you're not hitting well and they're going to help you."
As Eugene prepares for its regular-season finale on Sunday, Young has one goal in mind.
"Let's have another one of these days," he said.
Michael Cruz hit his eighth homer as part of a two-hit, two RBI game for the Ems. Reliever Enrique De Los Rios (4-1) allowed one run on two hits while fanning five over five innings to earn the win.