As a home run hitter in college, Ross Wilson's main goal this season was to finally carry that power into the pros. So far, it looks like his efforts are succeeding.
The White Sox prospect connected for three longballs and drove in a career-high eight runs on Friday, capping his ninth with a ninth-inning grand slam that sent the Class A Kannapolis Intimidators to a 9-5 win over the Augusta GreenJackets.
The three-homer performance was the second in the history of the Piedmont/Kannapolis franchise, dating back to 1995. The only other player to accomplish the feat was Seth Loman, who did it on June 12, 2009 against Greensboro.
Wilson came into Friday's game with only five homers in 671 Minor League at-bats and had never recorded more than two in a season. The 23-year-old second baseman's previous career high for RBIs was five, accomplished for Rookie-level Great Falls against Helena on Sept. 6, 2010.
"It's just a good night," said Wilson, who had totaled four RBIs before his three-homer night. "I got some good pitches for me to hit. I just took advantage of those pitches and didn't miss them. Hopefully, I'll continue this and keep it rolling."
Wilson hit a leadoff double in the top of the first, then smacked a two-run homer in the third. The roundtripper was his second of the season, tying his career high only 16 games into 2012.
"It was a 2-0 count with a guy on third," Wilson said. "I was looking to get something up in the outfield to drive in the runner. I got a fastball and hit it pretty good to left-center for a two-run homer to give us the lead."
After walking in the fifth and grounding out in the seventh, Wilson took reliever Keith Bilodeau deep for his second two-run shot of the night -- a homer that tied the game at 5-5. The University of Alabama product put the Intimidators ahead for good in the ninth by cranking a two-out grand slam.
"The second home run ... I was just looking for something to put a good swing on," Wilson said. "It was a fastball low and in, I really drove it down the line for a good home run.
"The last one, there were bases loaded. The guys in front of me really worked hard and had some long at-bats, really working [Bilodeau]. First-pitch breaking ball, I took it. The next pitch, I hit a fastball out to left-center. The guys in front of me did a great job working [Bilodeau] and getting me into a spot where I could put a good swings on it."
A 2010 10th-round Draft pick, Wilson displayed decent power in college. He collected 15 homers in his first year as a starter, then hit nine in each of the next two seasons. That power had not shown up in the Minors -- partially because of a shoulder injury that hindered him last year -- until this season.
"This offseason and in Spring Training, I really tried to get my power back, so to speak," Wilson said. "Since Spring Training, I've been feeling pretty good, trying to build off my at-bats. I kind of learned some stuff last year, what I need to do to prepare for this year. The name of the game is learning and making adjustments and hopefully, I can continue that.
"The most important thing was just being on time. I was kind of fouling off a lot of pitches I was getting to hit. That's what I was thinking about. Evey time I walk up to the plate, I tell myself, 'Be on time, be on time.' So when I get my pitches, I don't miss them. Of course, it's going to happen, but that's what I tell myself. I try to think positively."
Given his newfound approach, what does Ross think he'll do the next time out?
"Who knows?" he said. "I'm just going to go up there, keep working my at-bats and try to keep getting better every day. I really wasn't expecting a game like that, but I'm going to try to make the most of it."