Ask any catcher what's the toughest hit to get and 99 out of 100 will say it's a triple. With their typically stockier frame and worn-out knees, backstops are lucky if they have enough speed and energy to hustle their way to third on one swing.
Adam Witter of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes got that elusive extra-base hit and a whole lot more when he hit for the cycle on Aug. 29 against the Vancouver Canadians, earning MiLB.com's Best Short-Season Single-Game Performance Award.
Just four days earlier, Witter, an non-drafted free agent out of East Carolina University, nearly pulled off the feat against the Canadians when he went 3-for-5 with a home run and a double. After the Volcanoes crossed the border to Nat Bailey Stadium, Witter picked up where he left off, banging a two-run triple to left-center field in the first inning.
"(I knew) as soon as I hit it," the 23-year-old said. "I'm an aggressive base runner and I don't see too many triples every year, but as soon as I hit the ball deep in the gap, that's the first thing I was thinking -- triple. I was using my two-strike approach and just work my way on base any way I could, and I ended up squaring the ball on the outer half and drove it to the opposite gap."
Center fielder Jermaine Mitchell was shaded toward right-center. The ball bounced in front of him, then ricocheted off the wall, giving Witter enough time to hustle into third.
Two innings later, Witter drove in two more runs with a double to right. By then, thoughts of a cycle had crept into his head.
"The funny thing is, being a catcher and not a very fast guy, it's kind of one of those fantasy things that pop into your head, like, 'Oh, wouldn't it be nice to hit for the cycle?'" Witter recalled. "I already had the triple down, and that's the hardest one to get out of the way, so for me, it was something that popped in my head. The guys in the dugout were talking about it, too."
There were some doubts as the game progressed, with Witter drawing a walk and singling in the fifth and seventh, respectively. But the Volcanoes erupted for 10 runs in the seventh on their way to a 19-3 rout. Eight batters into the frame, with two runners aboard, Witter strode to the plate again.
He got hold of a pitch from right-hander Shane Presutti and drove it just high enough to clear the center-field wall, giving Witter the home run, the cycle and a career-high seven RBIs.
"They have a really big wall up there, so I knew I hit it hard enough," said Witter, who went 4-for-4 with four runs scored. "But I just wasn't sure if it was going to stay high enough to get over the wall."
The cycle wasn't the only thing that raised Witter's stock in the San Francisco Giants organization. He finished the season batting .435 with seven homers and 29 RBIs with two outs and runners on. At that point of the game, though, Witter wasn't in his usual two-out mindset; all he was trying to do was find something to hit and cause more damage.
It had been a long year for Witter, who started playing ball in early February at East Carolina and went through the draft without getting a call. But it couldn't have ended better.
"It definitely gives me a great amount of confidence going into next year," Witter said. "My managers know that I'm capable of doing something really special from here on out. Now it's all about tweaking my game and getting better all the time."