Seattle catching prospect John Hicks loves batting in the middle of High Desert's lineup. On nights like Thursday, it's easy to see why.
The fourth-round Draft pick out of the University of Virginia went 3-for-5 with two homers and a career-high seven RBIs in the Class A Advanced Mavericks' 18-5 rout of the Modesto Nuts.
"I felt great," Hicks said. "My first two at-bats didn't have the results I was looking for, but I came into the dugout, tried to relax and calm down and then go and look for good pitches to hit.
"This was the first time in my professional career that I had two home runs in one game. I did it maybe once in college, either my sophomore or junior year. As far as seven RBIs go, this is the first time."
Hicks' first multi-homer game helped continue his hot start to the season. He is batting .316 with 26 RBIs in May, he has homered six times in his last 11 contests and he has hit safely in all but three of his last 27 appearances.
On Thursday, Hicks grounded out in his first two at-bats in the second and third innings before slugging a grand slam off Modesto starter Lueris Gomez with one out in the fifth.
"It was a fastball away," Hicks said of his first longball. "The team was swinging the bat well and we were getting something rolling. The pitcher had kept me off balance, but I could see he was getting tired.
"I had worked a lot with our hitting coach on being aggressive down and away or down and in and getting the bat head there. I got a first-pitch fastball and I put a good swing on it."
Hicks then smacked a two-run shot to left field off Kurt Yacko in the seventh. He capped his night with an RBI double to left field off Craig Bennigson in the Mavericks' eight-run eighth. Unlike with the first homer, Hicks knew the second one was gone the second it left the bat.
"I felt like it was always going out, but it wasn't like I watched it," the 6-foot-2 right-hander said.
"He threw me a ball first pitch, then I chased a fastball up and fouled it back. He threw me another fastball on the outside corner that the umpire called a strike, so now I was just looking to put something in play and sneak a base hit up the middle. I saw it was a breaking ball out of his hand and it was a hanger."
Hicks fell one hit shy of matching a personal best, achieved in a 7-2 win over the Lake Elsinore Storm on May 1. His seven-RBI haul almost doubled his previous high-water mark of four as a member of the Class A Clinton LumberKings in a 12-1 rout of the Kane County Cougars last Aug. 22.
The catcher, serving as the team's designated hitter Thursday, was not the only Mavs hitter to feast on Nuts pitching.
Seattle's No. 16 prospect Jack Marder was 4-for-5 with a double, a walk and two runs scored out of the No. 2 spot, and second baseman Stefen Romero collected four hits, scored three times and plated two more in the cleanup role.
Each of the first eight batters recorded at least two hits and seven of the nine players scored multiple runs. Third baseman Mario Martinez -- batting eighth -- homered twice and plated five runs in the triumph.
"When you look at the stats sheet and see those batting average and home runs, it's impressive," Hicks said of his teammates. "It's pretty fun to watch. You definitely have a lot of opportunities to get RBIs.
"We have [Brad] Miller leading off and batting .300. Marder is batting over .300 in the two-hole. [Left fielder Julio] Morban and Romero are hitting over .350. Even further down the lineup [right fielder Mike] McGee is batting over .300 and [first base Mickey] Wiswall should be hitting about .360."
The Mavericks lead the California League in virtually every offensive category, including batting average (.310), homers (74), RBIs (306), extra-base hits (202) and runs scored (332). The team also has the second-fewest strikeouts, behind only Visalia.
"The ball flies well in High Desert and Lancaster, but we also go to parks like San Jose and Inland Empire which aren't great hitters' parks," said Hicks, a native of Sandy Hook, Va. "We still have the ability to put up really good numbers.
"Our park may give you a few extra feet on your home runs or a few extra points on your batting average, but you can put most of these guys in any other park around and they would still put up these numbers."
High Desert's offense proved more than enough for starting pitcher Roenis Elias (4-2) who allowed five runs -- two earned -- on five hits and three walks while striking out seven batters over six innings.
Modesto starter Gomez (1-2) yielded six runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings in the loss. He walked three batters and saw his ERA rise to 5.79. First baseman Jared Clark doubled home two runs in the losing cause.