Hickory sluggers shatter South Atlantic League record

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The Hickory Crawdads’ 2013 season has been highly publicized, but the sluggers on the team have earned every word with record-breaking numbers.

Hickory hit five home runs on Friday night to break the South Atlantic League record for homers in a season by a club. The Crawdads totaled 174 after Friday’s outburst, surpassing the 173 set by the 1998 Macon Braves.

That record is in a 110-year-old league featuring countless future major leaguers. The Crawdads have a few potential big leaguers of their own from their slugging offense.

Third baseman Joey Gallo almost single-handedly broke the record Friday, hitting three home runs to give him 36 in the SAL this season and 38 total. He is four shy of the SAL individual record set by Russell Branyan in 1996.

Mark Parker, the Crawdads beat writer for the Hickory Daily Record, said Gallo is the first Hickory hitter to have three home runs in a game twice and the first to do it at home.

Gallo’s three-homer barrage gave him the minor-league lead, one ahead of Houston Astros top prospect George Springer. For the season, Gallo is hitting .239 with a .595 slugging percentage, racking up 164 strikeouts. The big first-rounder will always strike out a lot, but the elite power and ability to walk at a good rate will help offset the strikeout totals.

The Augusta GreenJackets held Gallo homerless in six games this season, allowing just three hits in 21 at-bats. He went hitless in a three-game series at Augusta in May.

BASHING BUXTON: Another well-chronicled minor league season belongs to Minnesota Twins top prospect Byron Buxton, the first-rounder from Baxley, Ga.

Buxton was drafted second overall in 2012 out of the small Georgia town, and despite a lack of experience against higher competition, he took off in the minors. He entered the season ranked 10th overall among prospects by Baseball America, and his 2013 campaign could be enough to push him to No. 1 for next year.

Buxton is hitting a combined .337 with 19 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs and 55 stolen bases between the Midwest and Florida State leagues. He has done this as a 19-year-old, showing advanced feel at the plate and tools beyond his years.

The Georgia teenager is making a name as a legend in the minor league ranks, flashing all five tools against competition several years older. Buxton’s rise is a testament to scouts who had to look past his inexperience against better opponents and instead focus on the tools alone and how they might project as a professional. It turned out to be a wise choice for the Twins.

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