When Chris Wallace popped up to second base, Austin Wates headed back to the dugout from the on-deck circle. But Wallace's hit fell in -- and Wates got a chance to play the hero for Double-A Corpus Christi.
The Astros' No. 15 prospect followed Wallace's hit with a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning Thursday, giving the Hooks an 8-7 win over the Frisco RoughRiders.
The home run came on the second pitch Wates saw and capped a three-hit, six-RBI day for the 23-year-old outfielder.
"I told one of the guys in the dugout that I was going to look for a pitch to elevate and hopefully get it up into the jet stream," Wates said. "I don't hit home runs very much. I was just looking for a ball I could drive."
The walk-off hit was Wates' second clutch base knock of the game. Down 4-0, the Hooks rallied for a run on three hits and a walk before Wates stepped up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. He cleared the bases with a double to tie it, though he was thrown out trying to take third.
"They had a guy [Zach Osborne] in that had a three-fourths, kind of funky arm slot," Wates said. "I wanted to see what his ball was going to do, so I took the first pitch, which ended up being right down the middle, so that was a little discouraging. I got another pitch in the same area and was kind of ready for it. I was looking for something I could just drive."
As a team, the Hooks had totaled just four hits and two walks while getting shut out through the first eight innings of the game. But things changed in the ninth. In the final three frames, Corpus Christi collected eight runs on six hits and three walks.
Jake Goebbert was the only Hooks player besides Wates to record multiple hits, as he went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
"It just goes to show that the team we have, we don't give up very often. ... Once their starter came out, we did a good job knocking their bullpen around and getting them a little bit rattled," Wates said. "Even when we were down that much, we were still in the flow and we knew we weren't out of the game."
Wates is batting .294 with three homers, 32 RBIs and 13 steals in 67 games for Corpus Christi. The 2010 third-round pick is following up on a rookie campaign in which he hit .300 with six homers and 26 steals in the Class A Advanced California League.
"That's a huge jump, it really is. ... At this level, guys can execute a lot more often," Wates said. "There's still a lot of talented guys in the Cal League, but you get to this level and the execution is so much better. So much more is expected of you."
Given those expectations, Wates found it satisfying to be the player who made the difference Thursday -- especially since he's not usually the one going deep.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "You don't really get that opportunity very often. You have to soak it in. It all happened so fast. I don't hit very many home runs -- my home run trot isn't perfected. I speed around the bases not knowing what to do."