It's been a trying summer for Tri-City outfielder Jaron Shepherd.
The 2011 draft pick came into Saturday's game against Yakima hitting just .250 with two extra base hits and two RBIs.
That all changed in a hurry, as the speedy right fielder had his first career three-hit game, leading the Dust Devils to a 7-2 victory in Northwest League action.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to (hitting coach) Anthony Sanders," Shepherd said. "We've been doing some extra work before games, trying to let the ball get a little deeper (in the zone) and not trying to pull it as much."
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Shepherd did just that Saturday, lacing a triple up the left-center-field gap to set up the first Dust Devils run. His second at-bat, he hit a pop fly double down the left-field line, scoring Taylor Featherston to tie the game at 2-2 in the fifth.
"I'm trying to get a bit more consistent and tonight it worked," he said.
Shepherd added an RBI single in his third at-bat, driving in Ryan Casteel to make it 4-2 in the sixth. He finished 3-for-3 with a walk, a run and a home run short of the cycle.
"We've been working with him on not hitting to right field as much or grounding it to second," Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio said. "He responded pretty good today. He was patient at the plate and did a good job tonight."
The Dust Devils in general were solid at the plate, as starting pitcher Ricardo Ferrer struggled with his command, lasting just four innings and allowing two runs -- one earned.
"He battled tonight," Ocasio said. "He only threw four innings, but he kept us in the game. He didn't have his command, but he got us out of jams, and then the bullpen did a good job."
Rhett Ballard, Craig Bennigson and Jeremiah Sammy combined to throw five scoreless innings out of the bullpen, as Ballard picked up his third victory of the season.
With the bullpen shutting down the Bears, it gave the Dust Devils offense time to rally from an early 2-0 deficit.
"As long as there are outs to be made, we can come back," Shepherd said. "We got down, but no one panicked. They just did what needed to be done."
Tied 2-2 heading into the sixth, Tyler Massey led off with a single, stole second and eventually scored on a fielder's choice by Casteel, when Yakima shortstop Raul Navarro tried to get Massey at third on a grounder and threw it into his dugout. Shepherd then doubled to make it 4-2.
The Dust Devils tacked on three more in the seventh, as Casteel hit a double over the first-base bag to score two and Jordan Ribera came home on a wild pitch.
"As a team we are clicking," Shepherd said. "Everyone is on a roll. We rolling and everyone is doing pretty good."
NOTES: When Brian Humphries stole second base in the bottom of the third, the public address announcer pointed out that it earned the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-Cities a $25 donation from Les Schwab. An anonymous fan then let the PA announcer know that they also would like to donate $25 per stolen base for the game. The Dust Devils finished with four stolen bases. ... In the bottom of the seventh, Yakima reliever Greg Robinson tried the old fake to third, throw to first pickoff move. The crowd booed -- mainly because that move never, ever works -- but they shouldn't have considering New York Yankees star Curtis Granderson fell for it earlier this season and was picked off first to end a game with the tying run at third base. ... Thanks to the fireworks shows, the Dust Devils drew an announced crowd of 3,720. It was the largest crowd of the season for Tri-City. ... The Dust Devils won the season series with the Bears, finishing 10-2. ... The Bears now have 40 losses, the most in the Northwest League. ... Spokane comes to town at 7:15 p.m. tonight. The Indians are scheduled to start lefty Chris Hanna (2-1, 3.72) while the Dust Devils will counter with righty Tyler Gagnon (3-1, 2.67).
*Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.twitter.com/craig_craker