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Thaiss comes through in clutch in pro debut

Angels' first-rounder smacks go-ahead homer in ninth, doubles twice
June 21, 2016

Matt Thaiss was more anxious than nervous to get his professional career started. That attitude came in handy when he had his first big moment in Minor League Baseball.

The Angels prospect hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning to cap a three-hit night in his pro debut Tuesday as Rookie-level Orem beat Idahol Falls, 7-4, at Melaleuca Field. He doubled twice, collected four RBIs and scored twice.

"I'm grateful to get my feet wet in professional ball," Thaiss said. "It's been a long two weeks."

The University of Virginia product was selected 16th overall in the First-Year Player Draft earlier this month and got the nod to start at first base in the Owlz's fourth game of the season.

"I didn't have any nerves," he said. "I'm never really nervous for a baseball game because I can't let that get to me. But I was definitely excited to get started."

The 21-year-old wasted no time collecting his first professional hit and RBI as he lined a double to left in the first inning off Idaho Falls starter Alex Luna to score leadoff man Jahmai Jones, who also doubled.

After grounding out in the third and flying out in the sixth, the left-handed-hitting Thaiss doubled again to lead off the eighth against Chukars southpaw Nicholas Andros.

"I was just trying to get good pitches to hit and make the most of it," Thaiss said. "I wanted to be smart about the pitches I was swinging at."

With the game tied, 4-4, heading into the ninth, the Owlz got a runner to second base with two outs. Idaho Falls opted to intentionally walk Jones to set up another showdown between Andros and Thaiss.

"I didn't take it as they'd rather face me than Jones," Thaiss said. "[Jones] is an unbelievable hitter. I think they were just going with the lefty-lefty matchup. It's just baseball. I had no ill intentions or anything like that, I just stayed calm and tried to get a good pitch to hit."

That pitch came on the first offering from Andros and Thaiss belted it over the right field fence to put the Owlz ahead to stay. 

"I just wanted to stay in the middle of the fied and square the ball up," he said. "I wanted to stay with a simple approach, and I'm just glad it paid off."

The New Jersey native, who won the 2015 College World Series with the Cavaliers, was drafted as a catcher after hitting .375 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs in 60 games this year. While he started at first base on Tuesday, he said where he plays won't be a huge factor.

"I don't know what the future plan is, but wherever I'll be playing, I'll work hard at it," Thaiss said. "I still have a lot of work to do. It's the reason why we are all here."

And with his first game under his belt, Thaiss said he's looking forward to getting the rest of his career going.

"It's a great feeling," he said. "I'm happy we got the win and I'm excited to move forward. We've got a really good team and I'm just excited to get that first game in."

Troy Montgomery also chipped in three hits for Orem, while Brennon Lund scored twice and plated a run.

Andrew Vinson (1-0) picked up the win after allowing two hits over two scoreless innings.

Michael Peng is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MichaelXPeng.