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Gibbons continues torrid start for Owlz

Angels' 17th-round pick posts career bests with four hits, five RBIs
July 30, 2016

Because of the mistakes Zach Gibbons made during batting practice, he knew Friday was going to be a good game.

The Angels' 17th-round pick in last month's Draft tied a career high with four hits, set another with five RBIs and stole a base as Rookie-level Orem topped Ogden, 8-5, at Lindquist Field.

"I felt really comfortable at the plate during batting practice. I was missing balls up into the right side; normally, when I do that, I do a lot better in the game than when I pull them in batting practice," he explained. "So during batting practice, I felt good and comfortable."

Gibbons was locked in from the start, knocking a two-out single to right off Raptors starter Nolan Long in the first inning and swiping second for his 10th stolen base. 

"The first inning, he started me off with a fastball and it was a big righty, so I knew that he was going to come right back with a fastball. I just try to swing as hard as I can and hit the ball up the middle. And if you do it on a good pitch, I feel like you're going to get a hit," the University of Arizona product said. "And then he was pretty quick to the plate, so our third base coach Travis [Adair] told me to steal, so I just went."

Gibbons sliced an RBI single to center in the third and slapped a two-run single to left in the fourth.

"What I try to shoot for is getting a hit every game. Just getting that first one out of the way, you can almost go out there in your next at-bat and breathe," the 22-year-old left fielder said. "If someone's on base, you're not going to press too much about getting them in, you're just going to go up there try to get a good pitch to hit."

After capping his second four-hit game of the season with a two-run single to center in the eighth, Gibbons got a special shoutout from the Angels' second-ranked prospect.

"I was excited. Jahmai Jones, our center fielder, came out and he just said, 'Jeez, have a day, kid,'" Gibbons said. "So that was pretty cool to get a compliment from that high of a prospect."

Gibbons said that when he struggles -- and that hasn't happened since he joined the Owlz on July 9 -- he tends to pull the ball more. On Friday, he sprayed it to all fields.

"It felt good," he said. "Coach [Alexis Gomez] has really helped me out with my swing, making me stand farther back from the plate, trying to put a good swing on a good pitch and trying to hit the ball back up the middle."

Gibbons is hitting .441 (30-for-68) with 14 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. The Scottsdale native has nine multiple hits in half of his 18 games and would rank second in the Pioneer League in batting if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

"Just relaxing [has helped]. I feel like right when you get into pro ball, you have a sense, like you have to prove yourself," Gibbons said. "Like our coach says, all these guys were big-time guys at their college, so I feel like sometimes there's a pressure that you have to do well. But this team's been great, really welcoming, even the first day, so it got me to relax and just play the game of baseball."

Ryan Vega also had a big night for the first-half South Division champions. After falling a triple short of the cycle on Friday, the 19-year-old outfielder has five hits, including two homers, and three RBIs in three games.

"He's being swinging it great ever since he got up here from the AZL," Gibbons said. "He has a really short swing, a really smooth swing, so I feel like whenever he makes contact, it's going to be solid contact. He's a great hitter."

Reliever Bo Tucker (3-1) got the win, working around two hits by fanning four in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.