Zunino double-dips in AquaSox win

Third overall pick homers twice, has three blasts in two days

Mike Zunino is batting 7-for-15 in his first four games in pro ball. (Shari Sommerfeld/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | July 17, 2012 10:11 PM ET

The Florida Gators taught Mike Zunino well. In his third game of professional baseball, the Seattle Mariners' first-round Draft pick went yard. Just 24 hours later, he tripled his longball tally.

Zunino went 3-for-4 with two solo homers Tuesday as the Class A Short-Season Everett AquaSox beat the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, 6-2.

In four Northwest League games, Zunino is 7-for-15 (.467) with three homers and three RBIs. He has recorded a hit in each of his four starts and has scored once in three of his outings.

"I owe pretty much all of my success to them and how they schooled me as a player," Zunino said of the coaching staff in Florida. "They taught me everything from discipline and school work to training regiments.

"It's nice to be playing again. I thought I swung the bat well and I was just trying to stay inside the ball."

Batting fifth and serving as the team's designated hitter, Zunino hit an opposite-field homer in the second inning and he singled off shortstop Stephen Branca's glove in the fourth.

"I was just looking for a fastball to drive," he said of his first longball of the night. "[Joan Gregorio] missed with the first pitch, but the second was a fastball down and away and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Zunino -- selected by the Mariners third overall in the June Draft -- then pulled a deep fly ball to left field to lead off the seventh.

"I had a feeling that he was going to throw me a slider because he hadn't thrown me one tonight," explained Zunino, who will alternate between catching and serving as designated hitter as he gets into the habit of playing every day. "It was 1-2 or 2-2 and I just reacted. It was just one of those when you work a deep count or get to two strikes, you stay back and react."

In his fourth at-bat, Zunino grounded out for the final out of the eighth.

After hitting a solo homer against the Volcanoes on Monday, the young backstop was happy to see the momentum carry over.

"I had extra confidence today and that made it easy," said Zunino, who recorded three multi-homer games in the space of 16 days in his junior year at Florida. "Knowing you can go up there and compete with everybody is good. You have to have confidence and then let your ability back it up.

"I obviously haven't had a lot of at-bats, so I'm just trying to stick with my approach. [Two-homer games] don't happen often, so you have to enjoy them. I had some big multi-homer games at Florida, but my swing was on the right page today."

The 21-year-old was originally selected in the 30th round of the 2009 Draft by the Oakland Athletics, but he chose to attend the University of Florida over going pro.

He led the Gators to the College World Series in each of his three years with the team.

Zunino was chosen as a first-team All-American by the ABCA, Baseball America and Perfect Game as a sophomore in 2011. He also earned second-team honors from Louisville Slugger and he joined Matt LaPorta as the only other Gator to be voted the SEC Player of the Year.

In his junior year, the advertising major caught 66 of the nation's top-ranked Gators' 67 contests. He batted .322 with 19 homers, 28 doubles and 67 RBIs, all team highs, and he won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player before entering the First-Year Player Draft.

"It's been a blast," the Florida native said of his first week in the Minors. "I have great teammates and a great coaching staff. It's been a dream of mine for the longest time now. I've come to a great organization and I hope to contribute.

"[In 2009] I was drafted in the 29th round and I wasn't offered a dime, so that made my decision easy."

On Tuesday, Jose Valdivia allowed two runs on six hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings. He walked one batter and hit another.

Blake Hauser (1-0) recorded four outs to earn his first win of '12 and Mario De Jesus worked around a pair of hits over two hitless innings.

Gregorio (3-3) surrendered three hits on six hits over six innings for the loss.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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