You’ve heard of Babe Ruth’s called shot during the 1932 World Series.
Shane Hoelscher, the Tri-City Dust Devils’ third baseman, now has one to call his own.
But instead of predicting a home run, Hoelscher summoned up something far less common — a triple play — in the fourth inning of a 14-3 loss to Boise on July 1 at Gesa Stadium.
“There were men on first and second with no outs, and Gonzo (Dust Devils pitching coach Frank Gonzales) comes out and said, ‘Let’s try to get a ground ball here, and we’ll run this play,’ ” said Hoelscher, a 17th-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies out of Rice University. “I said, ‘Nah, just hit a ground ball to me, and we’ll turn a triple play.’
“Everybody thought, haha, but what do you know, we got the perfect ball to do it on two pitches later.”
On a 2-1 pitch from Tri-City starter Tyler Gagnon, Mark Malave hit a hard grounder to Hoelscher near the bag at third. Hoelscher grabbed the ball, stepped on the bag for the first out and whipped a throw to Sam Bumpers at second for the second out. Bumpers made a perfect pivot at second and completed the triple play with a throw to first baseman Josh Fuentes.
“I witnessed one before but never turned one,” Hoelscher said. “I tried to turn one during an interschool game in the fall, but I got too excited and sailed the throw into right field. Our third base coach said, ‘Well, that was your chance.’
“I texted him and said, ‘I didn’t sail this one.’ ”
Hoelscher has had a memorable season at the plate, too. The 6-foot right-hander has raised his average over 200 points since late June after taking some advice from former Dust Devils teammate Mike Tauchman, who spent the first two weeks of the Northwest League season with Tri-City rehabilitating a sore hamstring.
“It was one of those pieces of advice from a person you weren’t expecting,” Hoelscher said. “Somehow we got on the topic of bats. I wasn’t comfortable swinging the type of bat I was using. He was like, ‘Dude, I did the same thing in the transition from college. I was struggling, and I said if I’m going to suck, I’m going to suck using the bat I want to swing next year.’ ”
So Hoelscher went for a bigger bat, not quite knowing what to expect. At the same time, he worked with Dust Devils hitting coach Warren Schaeffer on loosening up his swing a bit.
“He’s improved more than anybody from where he started to where he is now,” Schaeffer said. “When he came in, he was trying to shoot the ball the other way a lot, not really catching anything up (in the zone) or letting his strength work for him.”
The Rockies don’t let coaches make any major adjustments in a player’s fundamentals for 30 days, but Schaeffer and Tri-City manager Drew Saylor encouraged Hoelscher to be a little less inhibited at the plate.
“It’s not like college, where if there’s a guy at first, you’re definitely bunting,” Saylor said. “Here, you’re like, ‘Let’s hit and run a little bit. Take a swing and see what you do. I think he’s really taken to that type of relaxed atmosphere and go play with no strings attached.”
The numbers have done the talking for Hoelscher lately. On June 28, the former third-team All-American was hitting .067 with just two hits in his first 23 professional at bats. Now, thanks to a hot stretch in July (he hit 23-for-52 with 10 multi-hit games over 13 games), he’s batting .287 to lead the team.
“I’ve had ups and downs. You just can’t get too high or too low. Part of it is knowing this is a game based on failure,” Hoelscher said. “You can’t get caught up in percentages or you’ll stress yourself out.”
Hoelscher got stressed out enough during his early struggles that he forgot his mother’s birthday. He had a little explaining to do for that, but his mom Dana and dad Lenny have provided just the support he needed in his first year of pro ball.
“They’re the ones you go to when things are going bad. My mom doesn’t even like talking to me about baseball. That’s a good way to get away from it,” Hoelscher said. “We’re planning a fishing trip, actually. She hasn’t been fishing, so I’m making up for (her birthday) with a fishing trip.”
For now, however, Hoelscher has his eye on a trip to the post-season.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do,” he said. “Now, we’re ready for the sprint down the home stretch.”
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org