The beauty of baseball is the opportunity it provides for redemption. Jeter Downs took advantage of that Thursday night.
With Class A Dayton leading, 9-7, in the ninth inning with two outs, Cincinnati's No. 7 prospect dropped a popup to shortstop. Although Lake County tied the game on the play, Downs delivered a walk-off single to cap a career-high four-hit night in the bottom half of the frame en route to a 10-9 win for the Dragons.
Gameday box score
"Pretty cool moment, first of many, hopefully," the 19-year-old said. "We weren't supposed to be in that situation in the first place. I definitely wanted to redeem myself and come out with the win."
Downs smacked a leadoff homer to left-center field off Captains left-hander Kirk McCarty in the first inning. He said he watched a fastball with little movement go by before the same pitch followed, this time middle-in.
"I got good wood on it and let the wind take care of the rest," he said.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder also legged out two infield singles in the third and seventh. On the first hit, Downs worked the count full and grounded a chopper up the middle. Second baseman Tyler Friis came up with the ball, but the prospect's 50-grade speed didn't even warrant a throw. In the seventh, Downs was fooled on a backdoor breaking ball, but muscled it between third and short.
Facing right-hander Jonathan Teaney, Downs lined a 1-1 fastball over Friis' head to plate Hector Vargas with the winning run. The 2017 supplementary-round pick finished with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Video: Downs lines walk-off single to center
"Coming up in that situation, I felt like it was meant to be," Downs said. "I really wasn't trying to do too much, just taking it easy like I was the rest of the at-bats in the game. See the ball and try to hit it, and that's what I did."
The shortstop did not offer excuses about the popup.
"I just flat-out missed it," the Monsignor Edward Pace High School product said.
The performance at the plate allowed Downs to bounce back from an 0-for-5 showing with two strikeouts the previous night. Through eight games, Downs is hitting .314 with four runs, four RBIs and two doubles.
"I just wanted to get back out there and be aggressive and just believe in myself," he said."Just play the game and have fun. I was trying not to do too much and not get too big. See the ball hit the ball. That's my mind-set every at-bat."
Reds No. 11 prospect Stuart Fairchild went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
Will Benson, the seventh-ranked Indians prospect, had three hits, drove in a pair and scored twice for Lake County.;
Dayton has won five in a row after starting the season with three straight losses.
"Honestly, we haven't really changed much," Downs said."We've been executing, making the plays, timely hitting. We're just playing good baseball. ... Today was a slugfest, and we ended up on top."