Bryant's hot bat leads Solar Sox over Javelinas
Cubs' No. 3 prospect knocks two doubles and clutch triple to lock down win
With the score tied Friday and the potential game-winning run on second base with one out, Kris Bryant, the Arizona Fall League's best hitter so far, stepped to the plate. The Solar Sox couldn't have scripted it any better.
Bryant, the Cubs No. 4 prospect, didn't disappoint. Facing Javelinas right-hander Dominic Leone, he drove a triple to right field to give the Solar Sox the lead. Mesa added an insurance run and held on to defeat Peoria, 7-5, at Surprise Stadium.
Bryant played with Leone with Chatham in the Cape Cod League in 2011. Because of that experience, Bryant said he knew he would have to be ready for Leone's fastball. But after missing high with a first-pitch fastball, Leone threw back-to-back sliders. The second one caught too much of the plate and Bryant drove it into right field.
"He threw a pitch where he didn't want it to be," Bryant said. "He threw a hanging slider and that's what I'm supposed to do with that pitch."
Bryant finished the game 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs scored.
Bryant's heroics were set up, in part, by Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect. An inning before, Soler briefly gave the Solar Sox a 5-4 lead with a two-run home run. He went 2-for-4 with a walk Friday, his first in 44 plate appearances in the AFL.
Since getting four days off, Soler is 5-for-8 with four RBIs in Mesa's last two games. Bryant said he is glad to see his fellow Cubs prospect having success.
"He's been playing extremely well and hitting the ball hard to all fields," Bryant said. "He's a great ballplayer and an even better person."
Keeping with the nature of Friday's back-and-forth game -- there were three ties and three lead changes -- the Solar Sox were unable to hold the lead. Patrick Kivlehan, the Mariners No. 16 prospect, tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out home run off Kenny Faulk.
It was Kivlehan's first home run of the fall. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, helping the Javelinas snap their 22-inning scoreless streak.
Bryant, meanwhile, has had no problems hitting this fall. His game-winning hit was just the latest accomplishment in a sterling first few weeks of the AFL. His .905 slugging percentage and 13 runs lead the league and his .429 batting average ranks second. He won the inaugural AFL Player of the Week award and has impressed scouts with his play just four months after the Cubs made him the second overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Bryant said the key to his success this fall has been his mental outlook.
"I think just staying in the moment," he said. "Not focusing on how well I did in the past or how bad I did. I'm working to get better each and every day and not letting outside distractions affect me. I think I've done a good job with that so far."