Throughout his first crack at big league Spring Training, Keston Hiura was one of the toughest outs in the Cactus League.
Things hadn't gone so smoothly in his first four games with Class A Advanced Carolina, but Milwaukee's top prospect seemed to sort things out Thursday night. Hiura collected a triple and a pair of singles in the Mudcats' 3-2 loss to the Dash in 10 innings at BB&T Ballpark.
Gameday box score
"I'm just very impressed with the way he handles the bat," Carolina skipper Joe Ayrault said. "Just uses the whole field. Got power ... plate discipline, and he's one of the better hitters I've seen at this level."
The 21-year-old entered the night with one hit in his first 15 at-bats in the Carolina League.
"That's just one of those deals -- it's what baseball is," Ayrault said. "We knew he was going to hit, so it's not like there was any added pressure or anything like that. It was one of those where it was only a matter of time for him, he's going to hit."
After Dallas Carroll opened the game with a walk, MLB.com's No. 56 overall prospect grounded a base hit through the right side, but the pair advanced no further.
With one out in the third, Hiura smacked the first offering from starter Bernardo Flores over the head of center fielder Luis Alexander Basabe for a triple -- his first extra-base hit at the new level. After Tucker Neuhaus followed with a walk, Hiura was cut down at the plate on a failed double-steal attempt.
Video: Hiura bashes triple to center
The UC Irvine product singled to left off Flores with two outs in the fifth, before flying out to center in the seventh and bouncing out to third in the 10th. Ayrault said the three-hit performance closer resembles his expectations of Hiura, and that he will enjoy penciling his name into the lineup while he has the chance.
"He's a professional hitter," Ayrault said. "Dude can flat-out rake."
After winning the NCAA batting title with a school-record .442 average in his junior season, Hiura made a strong first impression in professional ball last year. He batted a combined .371/.422/.611 with 25 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs in 42 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League and Class A Wisconsin. The California native followed that with a 13-for-31 (.419) performance in 19 games with the Brewers this spring.
Video: Booker steals home for win against Carolina
Winston-Salem shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri doubled and singled twice, including an infield hit in the 10th. Joel Booker, who took over for Gavin Sheets as the automatic runner that frame, won the game for the Dash with a straight steal of home with two outs and the bases loaded.
"We knew he could fly, all of us in the dugout, we can see it and it was a wild ending to the game," Ayrault said. "It was our first time at this level having the extra innings with the runner on second base, so I think it's good for Minor League Baseball to be doing it."
Prior to the final score with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th, Neuhaus, the Carolina third baseman, attempted to pull off a hidden-ball trick coming out of a mound visit. Time had been called and the ball was not in play, but the effort amused Ayrault and the Mudcats.
"We're in the dugout like, 'What the heck you doing there?' But, of course, he's a grinder, he's always looking for an edge to win a ballgame for you," the 46-year-old manager said.
The Mudcats were able to pull off the hidden-ball trick last season as Brewers No. 4 prospect Lucas Erceg caught second-ranked Astros prospect Kyle Tucker napping off third. Ayrault sees many similarities between the two third basemen.
"Both those guys, they're always looking for an edge," Ayrault said. "Whether they're in the field, on the bases or at the plate. They're always trying to find a little way to help their ballclub win."