Coming off a ridiculous 30-0 loss to Lake Elsinore on Friday, Lancasterâ€™s offense was looking for some wayâ€”any way, reallyâ€”to rebound.
Enter Aaron Bates, who hit his way into history with four home runs in the JetHawksâ€™ 14-12 win against the Storm on Saturday.
â€˜It was definitely embarrassing the night before,â€ the 2006 third-round pick out of N.C. State said. â€œYou never want to be on the losing end of anything like that. We were all just looking to expand our at-bats, make them better and get good swings on balls.â€
No player had hit four homers in a game in the 66-year history of the California Leagueâ€”a list of players that includes Reggie Jackson (Modesto, 1966), George Brett (San Jose, 1972), Kirby Puckett (Visalia, 1983) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (San Bernadino, 1988).
â€œThe whole history aspect of it definitely didnâ€™t hit me until afterwards,â€ Bates said. â€œItâ€™s such a huge honor and certainly something that Iâ€™ll always remember. But I wasnâ€™t trying to hit home runs. I was just trying to have good at-bats and drive balls into the gaps. After losing like we lost (Friday), we needed to do something as an offense just to get us going again.â€
Batesâ€™ first three homers came against Lake Elsinore lefthander Brenton Carter, the first of which came with Lancaster already down, 9-0.
â€œI was leading off the second inning and was really just trying to work the count, get on base and make something happen,â€ Bates said. â€œThen I got a second pitch fastball I was fortunate enough to be able to drive.â€
Batesâ€™ second homer came on a changeup from Carter, and the third one on another fastball. It was the fourth one that Bates will remember most, however.
With righthanded reliever Steve Delabar on the mound, a runner on second base and the JetHawks down a run in the eighth inning, Bates went to work again.
After working the count to 3-2, the 23-year-old first baseman hit a slider over the wall in right-center to put Lancaster up one.
â€œThat one was by far the most special because it gave us the lead more than anything else,â€ Bates said. â€œ(Delabar) kept throwing me slider after slider and I just kept hanging in there. I didnâ€™t care about a fourth home runâ€”I had never even hit three in a game before. I was more concerned with driving the runner in from second base.
â€œI put a good swing on it and it happened to go out. Four home runs is no doubt special, but if weâ€™d have lost I wouldnâ€™t care. The only thing that really mattered to me was winning that game.â€
With those four bombs, Bates put himself squarely in the minor league home run race along with teammate Bubba Bell. Bates now has 13, and is hitting .294/.436/.634 in 153 at-bats.
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