Brewer Hicklen doesn't consider himself "a big power guy" in the batter's box, so when he realized he had cracked his third long ball of the game Thursday night, it felt quite surreal.
"I couldn't keep a grin off my face, I was ear-to-ear rounding the bases -- so thankful. It was a cool time for me to round those bases," he said.
Kansas City's No. 15 prospect notched the hat trick for the first time in his career to lead Class A Advanced Wilmington to a 4-1 win over Salem at Frawley Stadium. After a two-homer performance in Wednesday's doubleheader, Hicklen has driven in seven runs over the past two days.
Gameday box score
"It's not something I go up there and try to do," the 23-year-old said. "I have power, but I don't try to hit home runs. I try to put good line-drive swings on some pitches that are in my zone. I was fortunate enough to get three good pitches that came across my zone -- two sliders and a fastball."
It's been a whirlwind year for Hicklen with plenty of peaks and valleys. It started with the University of Alabama-Birmingham product batting .204 in April. He's now hitting .338 with a 1.142 OPS. And the turnaround, in a sense, started after a phone call with his father, Mike, at the beginning of August.
"This season's been kind of a roller coaster for me," he said. "I started off kind of slow, had a really, really good stretch there in May and June and hit a really bad slump in July. Aug. 1 clicked and I was on the phone with my dad and I said, 'Hey, it's a new month, let's get this train turned back around, back on track.'"
Hicklen has worked tirelessly each day with Blue Rocks hitting coach Larry Sutton and eventually got his power stroke going earlier this month when he blasted dingers in three consecutive games from Aug. 6-8.
2019 Minor League milestones
But Thursday against the Red Sox, he reached unchartered territory for him. The 2017 seventh-round pick walked in the first inning, but got the chance to swing the bat two frames later. On the sixth pitch from right-hander Thad Ward (3-3), Hicklen sent a hanging breaking pitch over the left-field fence for a solo shot.
"When I got to 3-2, I wasn't sitting one pitch or another," he said. "I was staying with my approach and really let my hands work. I was fortunate enough that he left a slider up enough that I was able to see some spin and see it out of the hand. I was able to put a good swing on it."
In the fifth, the Alabama native got the best of the ninth-ranked Red Sox prospect again when he ambushed the first offering and crushed a roundtripper over the wall in right.
In the eighth, Hicklen came in with a little disadvantage, namely Zach Schellenger, a pitcher he had never faced. So the outfielder had a short conversation with Sutton about the scouting report. He didn't intend to stray from his line-drive approach, and against the righty, he smacked a 1-1 offering over the left-field wall to make a bit of history.
"I just tried to go out there and do what I do and put a good level swing on it and let it take care of itself, man," Hicklen said. "I'm not one to go up there and try to do too much damage. I try to put a good line-drive swing on it and I was fortunate enough to have that last one carry over the fence."
2019 MiLB include
It was the 6-foot-2 right-handed hitter's third multi-homer effort in the past two seasons. He's racked up 14 long balls this season, four short of the career high he set season ago. In August alone, Hicklen has mashed 11 total extra-base hits.
Wilmington already has a Mills Cup playoff berth locked down, and Hicklen said he and his teammates' goal is to repeat as champions of the Carolina League. So stepping up late in the season means a lot to him.
"I think it's important for me to be a leader out there," Hicklen said. "The best way to lead is to lead by example. And I think it's important for these guys to know, come playoff time, it's crunch time to narrow in our game. It's important to own your identity as a player and once you come to grips with who you are as a player, all these guys can play their game 1 through 9 [in the order]."
Rito Lugo (3-3) earned the win, allowing a run on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts over six frames.