Ross Wilson hit the first pitch of the game so hard that Augusta GreenJackets third baseman Garrett Buechele barely had time to protect his face before the ball nicked his glove for a leadoff double.
Among the hardest balls hit Friday night, it wasn’t even in Wilson’s top three.
The Chicago White Sox 10th round pick hit three home runs, including a game-winning grand slam in the top of the ninth to give the Kannapolis Intimidators a 9-5 win over the GreenJackets.
Wilson went 4 for 5 and added a double and a walk to his three-homer game. He drove in eight runs, and his 15 total bases came up one shy of the South Atlantic League record.
The 23-year-old right-handed hitter hardly looked like a menacing slugger as the second baseman stepped to the plate at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. His numbers coming into the game – four home runs in two minor league seasons combined – didn’t offer any hints of power, and he said he didn’t plan to muscle his way around Lake Olmstead Stadium.
“I remember playing in here last year, and we couldn’t throw a ball out of here, much less hit one,” Wilson said. “We know this is a pitchers’ park, so I wasn’t in anyway trying to leave this park. It was just taking advantage of some pitches. My swing has been feeling good, and I’ve been hitting balls deep all weekend.”
Wilson’s first homer gave Kannapolis (8-13) a 2-0 lead in the third. The GreenJackets (9-11) scored three in the sixth on three singles, and Jose Cuevas hit a two-run homer in the seventh for a 5-3 lead.
But Wilson hit another two-run blast with one out in the eighth to tie the game and capped the night with his two-out grand slam to secure a split of the four-game series.
“He’s not a big guy, but he’s got some juice in his bat,” Kannapolis manager Julio Vinas said. “He’s the type of guy you enjoy seeing play every day. We haven’t been playing great baseball at the moment, but the guys don’t give up and he didn’t, either.”
Keith Bilodeau (0-1) gave up the two late home runs to take the loss for a GreenJackets staff that walked a season-high 11 batters.
The ninth-inning loss gave the GreenJackets their seventh defeat in their past nine home games.