Calhoun delivers homer prediction, victory

No. 3 Dodgers prospect drives in pro-best five for Oklahoma City

Willie Calhoun is 7-for-22 with seven RBIs and five runs scored in his last five games. (Cody Roper/Oklahoma City Dodgers)

By Andrew Battifarano / MiLB.com | June 9, 2017 1:55 AM

While watching best friend Alex Verdugo circle the bases in the third inning, Willie Calhoun had a message for Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Bill Haselman. 

"I said, 'Hass, Alex is going to go out and best me, looks like I have to go out there and hit a home run,'" the Dodgers' No. 3 prospect recalled. 

Calhoun delivered on that promise, going deep two innings later and also collecting a triple in a five-RBI game to lead Oklahoma City to a 6-1 win over Iowa on Thursday at Principal Park. He drove in five runs for the third time in his three-year professional career.


Gameday box score


More than anything, the 22-year-old credits a position change during the five-game series for his success at the dish.

"I played left field today and yesterday, and it's the first time I've played left field since college," Calhoun said. "Obviously, I want to be a second baseman and the Dodgers want me to be a second baseman. And just playing the outfield, being out there, it just relaxed me. As you're standing out there and the ball's not being hit to you, you have some time to think. I was thinking about my ABs, thinking what my plan was going to be going into my next at-bat. And honestly, I'm just trying to keep my approach and keep it simple." 

Video: Calhoun hits 11th homer

Calhoun, who raised his average to .294, has 13 hits and nine RBIs in 10 games against Iowa this season. It's taken a keen eye and some studying to reach those numbers. 

"This team has been kind of doing the same stuff," he said. "It's just having idea of what they're going to do to me and just sticking to that approach the whole game and never giving up on it. It's something I'm a strong believer of and I've always been like that. I stuck with my approach throughout each game, and if it didn't work, I would keep that same approach over and over and over again." 

In the first inning, the 2015 fourth-round pick lofted a sacrifice fly to center field. After grounding out in the third, Calhoun came up in the fifth with Scott Van Slyke and No. 30 Dodgers prospect Kyle Farmer on base. The Yavapai College product smacked Miguel Mejia's 1-2 offering over the wall in right for his 11th homer of the season. 

"My approach there was to see the fastball," Calhoun said. "But I swung over changes right down the middle with my first two pitches. They threw one out of the zone [when it was 0-2] actually. Then 1-2 they came with a changeup again. I was able to put that in the back of my mind and was able to put a good swing on that." 

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Calhoun capped off his day with a triple to right off lefty Jack Leathersich that plated Farmer. It marked the Vallejo, California native's fifth-career three-bagger, and he couldn't help but enjoy the moment. 

"It's fun because I don't hit too many triples, to be honest with you," he said with a laugh. "It's definitely fun." 

Calhoun grounded out to short in the ninth, but that didn't put a damper on his day. 

"I always have a smile on my face no matter what," he said. "It's something that I do and try to do for every game. I don't try to get down on myself or take anything too seriously. ... Obviously it's not that I don't care, because I do care. This is a kids' game. Being able to play this game for so long and seeing all the stuff I had to get through to get where I'm at now, there's nothing to it but to have fun."

Video: Verdugo smacks solo shot

Verdugo, the Dodgers' no. 2 prospect, finished the game 3-for-5 to raise his average to .307 in his eighth game with three or more hits. There's a friendly rivalry between the two prospects, but they're always supportive of one another. 

"It's obviously really fun, he's my best friend," Calhoun said. "We're really competitive like brothers. I treat him like my brother and he treats me like his brother. We're super-compeitive with each other and we want to do better than each other. But at the end of the day, we want to see each other do good. Playing with him the last few years has been unreal." 

Wilmer Font (4-3) allowed one run on five hits with seven strikeouts for Oklahoma City. 

Chris Dominguez homered for Iowa's lone run. 

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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