Aaron Bates popped his head into Chad Epperson’s office less than 12 hours after high Class A Lancaster had suffered its worst loss in franchise history and had a simple message for the JetHawks manager: “We’re going to get them today.”
Bates carried through on his promise almost single-handedly.
The Lancaster first baseman set a California League record by homering four times in a 14-12 victory over Lake Elsinore on Saturday.
“I’ve never seen a minor league curtain call,” Epperson said, which is exactly what Bates took after his fourth blast in the eighth inning. “This guy could go on and have a 10-year career in major league baseball, make numerous all-star teams and never have a night like that again. This young man prepares the right away, loves to play, loves to hit and it’s nice to see him come through.”
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Bates’ feat is that it may not have been the biggest headline of the three-game series against the Storm.
Lake Elsinore took the series-opener from Lancaster 30-0’"a margin just four runs shy of the California League record set in 1947 and marked a Lancaster team record for lopsided defeats. Two nights later, following Bates’ home run expo, Lake Elsinore’s Yordany Ramirez went 4-for-6, hitting for the cycle.
“Never seen anything like it,” Epperson said. “I’ve seen some teams come into a ballpark swinging the bat well, but never anything like that. It was one of those series where they hit everything we threw. Whether it was a good pitch or a bad pitch, they put the barrel on it.”
The Storm jumped out 21-0 in the series-opener, scored in every inning except two and tallied 28 hits’"including six home runs. Craig Cooper and Chad Huffman each hit a pair of bombs for the Storm.
Lancaster general manager Brad Seymour had a birds-eye view of the rout from the grandstand and, like most fans at the JetHawks’ Clear Channel Stadium, couldn’t help but watch on with fascination.
“The fans were into it until the end,” Seymour said. “We still had a big crowd at the end of the game because it was such an unusual event. When they posted the 30-spot against us, I think the fans were in disbelief’"as we all were.”
Seymour said the typically windy conditions in Lancaster have been particularly blustery this spring–the team had to postpone a game two weeks ago because of high winds and gusts reached 30 mph over the weekend.
However, both Epperson and Seymour said the JetHawks’ jetstream can’t be blamed for the rout.
“The fan blows here nonstop,” Epperson said. “I’m still trying to find the outlet where it is plugged into. It’s unreal. But you still have to execute pitches. You still have to focus on the task at hand. You pay for a mistake here a little more than you would at a normal ballpark, but you still can’t walk guys or pitch away from contact. But it’s not as if we were doing that. They were just hitting it with the barrel.”
Final totals for the weekend series: 83 runs, 95 hits, 24 doubles and 23 home runs.
“It was something to see,” Seymour said. “I just hope not to see it happen to us again.”