The outfielders were playing in. The Dell Diamond outfield, Taylor Jones believes, plays big. So when he laced his second hit of the night into the gap in right-center field, Jones had to take in the scene. He wasn't sure."But a few steps out of the box, I realized that
The outfielders were playing in. The Dell Diamond outfield, Taylor Jones believes, plays big. So when he laced his second hit of the night into the gap in right-center field, Jones had to take in the scene. He wasn't sure.
"But a few steps out of the box, I realized that thing was going down," Jones said, "and it was just another big walk-off win for our team."
The game-winning single in the 10th inning by Houston's No. 28 prospect pushed Triple-A Round Rock past Iowa, 4-3, in Game 2 of the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League American Conference championship Thursday. And it made Jones' best Minor League season just a little bit better.
The second extra-inning win in two nights put the Express one victory away from advancing to the PCL Championship Series.
After going 0-for-4 in Game 1, Jones capped the rally in the 10th that started with Drew Ferguson's five-pitch walk off Jordan Minch. Jack Mayfield followed with another walk, drawing Cubs manager Marty Pevey from the dugout. He appeared to call to the bullpen, but after a long conference on the mound, the southpaw remained in the game.
Jones noticed Minch's off-speed offerings couldn't find the plate. After another ball, he guessed a heater was coming next. Bingo. He barreled the 1-0 pitch where no one could catch it.
Ferguson raced home and the home team mobbed Jones as he ran around the infield. The Gonzaga product reached Triple-A last year, but hit .210 with 46 strikeouts in 143 at-bats. Jones remained on the circuit to start this season and was a different player from the get-go. He posted a .290 average and a .986 OPS in April, then came on even stronger in the summer, with a 1.095 OPS in June. He sported a .291/.288/.501 slash line at the close of the regular season.
Gameday box score
"At the end of the day, it's about getting the 'W'," the 2016 19th-round pick said. "So the fact that we can come out, play together, play well, stay focused, it's been exciting these last couple days."
Jones collected double-digit RBIs every month this season except September. But Thursday's capped Round Rock's four-run frame to complete the comeback.
Iowa's Vimael Machin took No. 11 Astros prospect Brandon Bielak's first pitch of the game over the fence in center. Phillip Evans added a sacrifice fly in the opening frame and Connor Myers plated No. 28 Cubs prospect Trent Giambrone, who drew a walk to open the second, with an RBI single to make it a 3-0 lead.
Jones led off the bottom half of that frame by lining a single to left and the Express put the next three batters on too. But one of two double plays induced by Tyson Miller limited the Express to a lone run -- scored by Jones. Miller, the Cubs' No. 12 prospect, faced one more than the minimum over the next four innings.
Randy Rosario inherited two runners in scoring position after Miller walked Nick Tanielu and Alex De Goti doubled to start the seventh. Jamie Ritchie lined a single off the southpaw's foot to knock one run in and Rosario was unable to help turn two on a comebacker off the bat of No. 17 Astros prospect Ronnie Dawson. The fielder's choice tied the game, 3-3.
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"Both games haven't gone the way we wanted to offensively early on in the games," Jones said. "But when it comes down to it, it seems like we're really dialed in and trying to take advantage of the big moments. So far we have."
The score held through nine innings. Right-hander Riley Ferrell tossed his second scoreless frame for the Express in the 10th, and the offense didn't make an out before Jones ended the game.
Game 3 will be played at Iowa's Principal Park on Friday at 8:08 p.m. ET. For Jones, the energy of Thursday's win will be the fuel to get him through an early flight and quick turnaround.
"But," he concluded, "we've still got some business to take care of."
In other Pacific Coast League action:
River Cats 8, Aviators 6
Sacramento tied the series at a game apiece despite being outhomered by Las Vegas, 4-1, in Game 2. The River Cats jumped out to a five-run lead in the third inning, and No. 27 Giants prospectAbiatal Avelino, Cristhian Adames, Joe McCarthy and Zach Houchins drove in a pair of runs apiece in the win. Dan Winkler and Williams Jerez combined to allow just one hit -- Mikey White's ninth-inning solo home run -- over the final three innings. Gameday box score
Joe Bloss is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.