Mike Boulanger called it a test.
The Augusta GreenJackets manager figured he would learn a great deal about his young ballclub in the final two games of their series against the first-place Columbus RedStixx.
The grades are in, and the Jackets passed with flying colors.
After their four-run loss to the RedStixx in the opener Monday, the Jackets responded to Boulanger's challenge in a big way, taking the final two games of the series, including a 5-1 victory Wednesday.
"You always wonder if your club can pick their game up, because obviously we were outclassed, outplayed, however you want to put it in the first game," Boulanger said. "So they picked their game up the next two nights. I'd say they passed the test."
At the head of the class were highly touted Boston Red Sox prospects Rick Asadoorian and Tony Blanco, who each belted home runs.
The 11-hit attack was only the sixth time in 27 games this season that the Jackets - who began the night with an SAL-worst .207 team average - struck for at least 10 hits.
Their five-run fifth - highlighted by the Asadoorian and Blanco bombs - was their biggest inning since a six-run sixth in an 8-1 drubbing of Charleston, S.C., on the road April 18.
"We knew coming into the series that (Columbus) was the No. 1 team in our division," said leadoff man Antron Seiber, who went 2-for-5 with a double and one RBI. "Bo said we had to step our game up after the first game, and last night and tonight we really put it together. We all swung the bat real good tonight."
Asadoorian - the 1999 first-round pick whose two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday gave the Jackets a 7-6 win - finished with his second straight two-hit night, including a double in the seventh inning.
Along with Asadoorian and Seiber, Justin Sherrod, Jon Anderson and Raul Nieves also had two hits each, with Nieves extending his hitting streak to seven games and raising his average to .298.
"Blanco showed his power, and Asadoorian, of course the home run was nice, but I really liked that double to right center," Boulanger said. "That was a good piece of hitting, because you've really got to stay on that pitch and not pull off."
What's more, the Jackets also counted on the old standby, as strong pitching again helped get the job done.
Rene Miniel, a reliever making his third spot start of the year, turned in his best performance to date.
Miniel, who turned 20 last week, held the RedStixx to one run on four hits in four innings of work. His outing was in stark contract to his last start, when he gave up five earned runs and five hits in 1ä innings in an 8-6 loss at home to Capital City on Friday.
Former Clemson left-hander Brian Adams, a Bishopville, S.C., native, held the RedStixx hitless for 3ä innings to pick up his club-leading fourth victory. Right-hander Rodney Dickinson, a 25-year-old Jonesboro, Ga., native, closed the door with 1â innings of scoreless relief in a non-save situation.
The victory was the Jackets' (17-10) eighth in their past 10 games, and it pulled them to within two games of the RedStixx (19-8) for first in the Southern Division.
"This was a good win," Boulanger said. "I like the way we played. We got some good hits on balls hit hard and got good pitching. It was a good, clean win."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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