Area baseball beat: Stassi breaks out of slump with night to remember

Published: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 - 8:07 am

Max Stassi (Yuba City) had been struggling until Wednesday.

The Houston Astros catching prospect with Double-A Corpus Christi had a career night. He went 4 for 5 with two home runs, including a grand slam, and a career-high eight RBIs in the Hooks' 13-1 victory over the Springfield Cardinals.

The multi-homer game was the first for the 22-year-old, and his eight RBIs topped the five he had for the Class-A Stockton Ports on April 21, 2011. He had his first grand slam in that game.

"I felt pretty good up there, said Stassi, a fourth-round draft pick of the A's in 2009. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard, not worry about the outcome and just focus on the process. This is the best game I've had in my professional career. I had three homers and nine RBIs (in one game) in 2008 as a junior in high school."

Stassi singled in the first inning, hit a grand slam to center in the second inning, doubled in two runs in the third and hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Gamboa pitches a gem

Bowie knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa (UC Davis) wishes he had one pitch back.

The Baltimore Orioles prospect allowed an infield single and three walks while striking out seven over 7 1/3 innings as the Double-A Baysox one-hit the Altoona Curve in a 1-0 win last Sunday.

The lone hit came with one out in the eighth inning when Justin Howard lined Gamboa's 3-1 pitch back toward the mound. The ball hit Gamboa's leg and ricocheted toward first base, giving Howard enough time to beat it out before Gamboa could cover the bag.

"The knuckleball was great," Gamboa told MLB.com. "It feels like it gets better and better every day. I have only been throwing it since March, so it's very frustrating, but at times it can pay off when things go well."

Gamboa (3-5) threw 59 of 108 pitches for strikes and induced 10 ground-ball outs. He also picked off two runners.

"He was terrific," Bowie manager Gary Kendall said of Gamboa. "He had a lot of composure, mixed in his knuckleball, and he had everything working for him. I really thought he had a good advantage because this was the first time Altoona has come here and faced a knuckleballer. The way he was able to cut the ball and mix things in kept them out of gear a little bit."

Higley has a blast in first at-bat

Justin Higley (Jesuit, Sacramento State) homered in his first minor-league at-bat with the A's rookie club in the Arizona League on June 21.

Higley, a 14th-round draft pick, hit his solo blast off Justin Fitzgerald (UC Davis), who was rehabbing before returning to the Triple-A Fresno Giants.

Higley, who hit 10 home runs as a junior last season and was a two-time academic all-conference center fielder for the Hornets, played right field, batted seventh and went 2 for 3 with a walk. Fitzgerald pitched four innings and allowed only one run.

Et cetera

• Zak Basch, the River Cats' manager of public relations and baseball operations since 2012, has accepted a position in the A's public relations department starting Monday. Mark Ling (Davis, UC Davis), the River Cats' new media/baseball information editor for the last two years, will take over Basch's duties.

• Former Colorado Rockies farmhand Ethan Katz (Sacramento State), a 26th-round choice in 2005, has been hired as a pitching instructor by the Los Angeles Angels. At Harvard-Westlake High School, he served as pitching coach to first-round picks Max Fried of the San Diego Padres and Lucas Giolito of the Washington Nationals. He was a pitching coach last summer in the Northwoods League on the staff with manager Andy McKay (Del Campo, Sacramento City) and coach Joe Potulny (Jesuit).

• Rochester right-hander Vance Worley (McClatchy) was named International League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending June 23 with a 2-0 record and an 0.56 ERA. He is one of only 16 minor-league pitchers with more than one complete game this season. Last week he had two, beating Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Louisville. That gave him three complete games in six starts for the Red Wings since being optioned by the Minnesota Twins in late May.

• Colorado Springs hitting and first-base coach Dave Hajek (San Juan) had a sizable contingent of family and friends at last Sunday's River Cats game at Raley Field. However, they didn't get to see him for very long. Hajek was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing a call.

Mark McDermott is a freelance writer specializing in Sacramento-area baseball. Contact him egmacker@yahoo.com.

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