Aristides Aquino found his form again at just the right time for Rookie-level Billings.
"He got away from his pitch recognition the last week or two and has been chasing more, but tonight he got back to the Aquino we saw in July," Mustangs hitting coach Kevin Mahar said. "He took a couple sliders in the dirt and when he got pitches to hit, he didn't miss them."
The Reds prospect homered twice, doubled and drove in five runs on Saturday night to boost Billings to a 10-6 win at Missoula. The victory clinched the North Division second-half title for the Mustangs, who lead the second-place Osprey by five games with five to play and own the tiebreaker advantage.
"It's a lot of fun. These guys worked hard all year," Mahar said. "We didn't do that well in the first half, but we played well in the second half. They didn't change what they did, and now we've got at least two more games after the regular season."
Aquino clubbed 10 homers in July but entered Saturday's game with only two in August. He's second in the Pioneer League with 16 in 68 games and is batting .293.
The 20-year-old outfielder took Osprey starter Dallas Newton deep for a solo dinger in the first inning, but it wasn't until he faced Newton again in the third and hit a two-run homer to right field that Mahar knew Aquino was back on track.
"It was really in the second at bat, when he took two sliders down, that you saw it. He stopped pressing. He's been trying to do too much instead of just playing his game and going up there relaxed," the hitting coach said.
"It was a line drive to right field that just kept going. It was a good swing. He talks about having oppo power, kind of sarcastically and having fun. But when he hit this, I was telling him to run, hurry up and get to second base, but he knew it was gone. And he was right."
The native of the Dominican Republic got the best of Newton again in the fifth, chasing him with an RBI double.
"That was fun to watch. He took a slider inside and stayed up there, battling," Mahar said. "He got a pitch to drive and smoked it to left field."
After striking out in the eighth, he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth to pick up his fifth RBI.
Earlier in the day, Aquino was named a Pioneer League postseason All-Star.
"He was happy, as happy as anybody is going to be about being named an All-Star. But he has a good head on his shoulders," Mahar said. "He realizes he wants to go farther in it, and he took it in stride and ran with it. In July, he was the Reds Minor League Player of the Month, and he was happy about that, too, but it doesn't change him. He shows up happy, no matter what, always has a smile on his face."
Ty Washington was 4-for-4 out of the ninth spot in the Billings lineup, missing the cycle by a triple. He scored three runs and plated two.
Stewart Ijames went yard in his second straight game for the Osprey. He had two homers and six RBIs on Wednesday.
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com.