Eric Groff is doing his best to put Keystone College back on the baseball map.
Groff tied a Pioneer League record with the first three-homer game in team history Friday, powering the Missoula Osprey to an 8-6 victory over the Orem Owlz.
A 44th-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in last month's Draft, Groff got to work quickly. His two-run blast in the bottom of the first inning gave Missoula a 2-1 lead.
The 22-year-old third baseman connected again in the fourth for a solo shot that got the Osprey within 4-3. With the score tied, 6-6, Groff drilled another fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer in the seventh.
"I'm just trying to work a good count and trying to get [the go-ahead run] in," he said. "I wasn't thinking home run at all. The odds of hitting three, I wasn't thinking about that at all."
Groff became the 13th player in the history of the Rookie-level league to hit three homers in a game and the first since Great Falls' Chris Kelly on July 28, 2004. No one had performed the feat in the Osprey's 12-year history.
"I've got a bunch of text message and phone calls," the Pennsylvania native said. "I know [my family] is pretty excited."
While Keystone College has an enrollment of only 1,691, four members of the Giants baseball team were selected in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. First baseman Yazy Arbello (26th round), pitcher Victor Lara (34th) and Groff were picked by the Diamondbacks, while pitcher Sean Murphy went in the 33rd round to the Athletics.
"We're really happy about that," said Groff, who is teammates again with Lara. "It gives our coach and our program a big day, keeps the Keystone name out there."
If any of the four reaches the Major Leagues, he'd been in good company. Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson attended Keystone from 1895-98.
Still, Groff's professional career is off to a solid start. He ranks second in the league with six homers, third with 23 RBIs and has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games to get his average up to .321.
"I worked hard in the preseason when we were hitting batting practice," he said. "The coaches were working hard with me on not opening up too much and using the whole field. I came out really early and that's helped me in the game to stay off the junk pitches, take your pitch and react to it.
"It's awesome. They're teaching me a lot of new things I didn't know before. Coming from a Division III school, a small school, you're around good players and coaches [here] every day. It makes you a better ballplayer."