Ryan Rua emerged as one of the biggest storylines of the Rangers system in 2013, but he's only recently been able to show his newfound power in Arizona. Early struggles with Surprise make the good days feel pretty satisfying.
"I'm not taking anything for granted," the third baseman said. "We're playing with the best prospects in the game here. I want to enjoy it and have fun."
Rua continued his late surge by knocking home four runs while Travis Shaw added four hits and Joe Wendle hit his first homer as Surprise racked up 20 hits in a 14-5 rout of Peoria on Thursday.
Hitting .173 with Surprise, the Rangers prospect extended his hitting streak to five games with a two-run single in the first to plate Shaw (Red Sox) and Orioles prospect Henry Urrutia as Surprise (16-8) raced out to a 4-0 lead. He plated two more runs with another single in the third, a grounder that deflected off Peoria shortstop Nolan Fontana (Astros) that allowed Urrutia and Jorge Alfaro (Rangers) to come home.
"I felt good, I felt comfortable," Rua said. "So far this Fall League has been a little slow for me, but it's starting to pick up. I'm getting into a groove, in a rhythm."
Rua began to break out of his slump Oct. 28, when he hit the first of three homers in a four-game stretch. Since then, he has six hits and nine RBIs, scoring a run in each game.
"I'm not trying to make it happen," he said. "I'm not trying to try so hard and just want to put good swings on the ball."
Wendle (Indians) singled home Rua to cap the four-run outburst in the third and added a homer in the seventh, while Shaw -- the son of former Major Leaguer Jeff Shaw -- singled and scored in the first and fourth, walked in the fifth, doubled in the seventh and added another base hit in the ninth to raise his average to .367.
Every starter for Surprise had at least one hit, with seven of the nine batters producing multi-hit games. Mitch Haniger (Brewers) went 3-for-6, Urrutia finished with two singles, Brewers converted outfielder Jason Rogers singled twice and Orioles shortstop Jonathan Schoop went 3-for-3 with his third homer in the sixth. The Saguaros scored in every inning but the second and eighth.
"We have a good vibe in the clubhouse," Rua said. "I think that's what makes us so successful. Everyone is very close and you have someone else pick you up. It's definitely more fun when you win, especially when you're struggling at the plate. But we pick each other's brains all the time."
Rua's brain was probably the target of some serious picking this past summer in Hickory, when he hit 29 of his 32 homers in 104 games for the Class A Crawdads. It was a breakout season for the 2011 17th-round pick who hit just seven longballs a year earlier. He finished his third Minor League season batting .247 with 32 dingers, 91 RBIs, 14 steals and a .347 on-base percentage, reaching Double-A Frisco toward the end.
Something of an unlikely path for an infielder drafted out of Division II Lake Erie College.
"It's been a cool journey," he said. "I'm pleased with myself. Since I got drafted and went to Rookie ball, there's been a lot of hard work. I'm adjusting things and taking new things from every game."
The Sags offense was plenty of support for Boston lefty Miguel Pena (3-1), who allowed three unearned runs on two hits and a pair of walks over four innings for his third AFL win. He struck out five, throwing 44 of his 81 pitches for strikes.
Peoria starter Kyle Hunter (0-3), a Mariners southpaw, was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks in the loss. He struck out one and retired just two batters in the first.
Jorge Bonifacio (Royals) went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Delino DeShields Jr. (Astros) added a single and a pair of RBIs for Peoria (10-15).