Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

66ers' Ward delivers career day at plate

Third-ranked Angels prospect homers twice, plates four runs in romp
August 18, 2016

As his first full season of professional baseball comes to a close, Taylor Ward is focusing on helping his team finish on a high note. On Thursday night, his bat had some serious loft. 

The Angels' No. 3 prospect set career highs with two home runs and four RBIs to lead Class A Advanced Inland Empire to a 12-0 win over Lake Elsinore on Thursday.

"I'm just trying to finish strong and boost my average and power numbers a little bit," the backstop said. "I'm trying to end things on a good run. Not just at the plate, but working with the pitching staff as well." 

Ward set the tone for his day at the dish in the first inning by lifting a 1-1 pitch from Lake Elsinore starter Elier Sanchez over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. 

"He threw a first-pitch fastball for a strike, then I took a changeup for a ball," the 2015 first-round pick said. "After that, I just sat back on a fastball down and in and put a good swing on it."

In the third, the 22-year-old battled back from an 0-2 hole against Sanchez and took him deep to left for another two-run blast. 

"I worked a good two-strike at-bat and got a curveball that hung up and hit it to a good part of the park. Once it gets dark in Lake Elsinore, the ball doesn't carry that well, but I hit it hard enough," Ward said. "I saw most of his pitches at that point and battled and battled. I finally got one over the plate. Being able to hit an offspeed pitch out of the park felt good."

The two homers were the results of a mechanical timing adjustment Ward made with the help Inland Empire hitting coach Ryan Burba.

"I've been working through things with [Burba] and today they kind of came together," the Ohio native said. "Earlier this season, I wasn't loading my hands early enough. I was loading them with the pitcher instead of doing it on my own before he went through his motion. Tonight, I was able to be on time and swung at good pitches and made things happen."

After popping out to second in the sixth, Ward drew two walks in his final two at-bats. 

"After hitting two home runs in your first two at-bats, the pitchers will try to pitch around you a little bit and I took advantage of that," Ward said. "When things are going the way they did tonight, that felt good. Hopefully, it continues tomorrow."

In 107 games this season, the Fresno State product is slashing .243/.322/.310 with six homers and 42 RBIs. He has been swinging a hot bat of late with six hits in his last three games. 

Angels' No. 21 prospect Jared Foster went 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored a run and designated hitter Michael Strentz added a ninth-inning grand slam. 

Inland Empire's Justin Anderson (8-10) allowed seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings. 

Sanchez (0-2) allowed six runs on four hits and struck out two in 2 2/3 innings for the Storm.

Michael Leboff is a contributor to