Benson's blasts steer Captains to victory

Indians No. 8 prospect smacks slam, plates career-best five

Will Benson leads the Midwest League with a home run every 15.9 at-bats this season. (Alicia Falorio)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | June 6, 2018 10:53 AM

Will Benson hadn't notched anything in the home run column of the stat sheet for a while, so he decided to make two trips Wednesday night.

The Indians' No. 8 prospect blasted a pair of long balls, including his first Minor League grand slam, and drove in a career-high five runs as Class A Lake County beat Dayton, 8-5, at Classic Park.


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Homerless since May 17, Benson ended the drought in the first inning. With one out and the bases full, the 19-year-old right fielder clubbed a grand slam to center field to highlight a five-run frame.

"I just got the pitch I wanted to hammer and took care of it," the 19-year-old said. "That first at-bat, I actually got behind, 0-2, and was able to battle back and win every pitch until I got to 3-2. I got a fastball up and took care of it.

"That was amazing to have guys in scoring position and see that result. Usually for me with guys in scoring position, I struggle a little bit. I feel like I can put something together and have a good at-bat. Even that at-bat alone, coming back from 0-2, I think that fired the guys up. The cherry on top was the grand slam. That just brought it all home. When I got back in the dugout, it was nothing but excitement."

In the eighth, with the Captains holding on to a two-run lead, Benson connected again, this time on a leadoff blast to right. The long ball moved the 2016 first-round pick into a tie atop the Midwest League with 11 homers with Twins No. 6 prospect Alex Kirilloff of Cedar Rapids.

"My last at-bat, I told myself just, 'Hey, be aggressive on something in the zone' and took care of it," Benson said.

After going 0-for-17 over a six-game stretch from May 22-28, Benson has hits in five of his last seven games, going 8-for-31 to get his average back to an even .200.

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"It's all a mental game," he said. "I'm slowly starting to figure that out. If you go into the box knowing that you're the guy or more than likely going to be the guy, when things get tough and you mentally start [messing] with yourself, then that's going to play in the result. This last week I just told myself, 'Let's go out here and have fun.'

"The biggest difference is how important those things are. With Mahoning [Valley last year], you could kind of get away with not preparing your body the right way, but in long season, we're not even halfway through. If I cheat some of those days where I don't completely do my pregame routine or my stuff after, my body's going to blow up a little bit. That's the biggest thing I've learned. If you don't take care of your routines before or after, you're going to feel a little achy when you play."

Indians No. 24 prospect Ernie Clement belted his first homer of the year, a solo shot to left, in the fourth.

Captains starter Gregori Vasquez (2-2) recorded his first win as a starter this season, allowing five runs -- three earned -- on five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked one in matching the longest outing of his career. Cameron Mingo worked around three hits over the final two frames, fanning two, for his second save of the year.

Reds No. 6 prospect Jeter Downs highlighted the Dragons' five-run fifth with a two-run double. 

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

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