Sacramento River Cats

Area baseball beat: Justin Higley hits rare inside-the-park grand slam

Justin Higley (Jesuit, Sacramento State) pulled off a rare feat last week.

The A’s minor leaguer hit an inside-the-park grand slam in the eighth inning last Sunday to break a 6-6 tie and lead the Vermont Lake Monsters past the Connecticut Tigers 10-7 in a Class-A Short-Season New York-Penn League game at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. He also doubled, walked and scored three runs.

It was just the second inside-the-park home run at Centennial Park in the Lake Monsters’ 21-year history.

In five games against Connecticut this season, Higley is 8 for 19 with seven runs scored, two doubles, a triple, three home runs – including another grand slam the traditional over-the-fence way – and 14 RBIs.

Through the Lake Monsters’ first 14 games, Higley, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound 21-year-old, led the Lake Monsters in hits (16), doubles (five), homers (three), RBIs (16), total bases (32), stolen bases (four), slugging percentage (.571), on-base plus slugging percentage (.888) and strikeouts (18).

Higley is in his second minor-league season after the A’s drafted him in the 13th round last year. In 42 games in the rookie Arizona League last season, he hit .275 with seven doubles, four triples, six home runs and 29 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .363 and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .853. However, he also averaged better than a strikeout a game.

Around the bases

• Eric Sandness (Antelope) was one of more than 30 players who traveled from Surprise, Ariz., to Raleigh-Durham (N.C.) International Airport and then bused to Burlington, Vt., a few days ahead of the Appalachian League opener seven days ago. Sandness, the Kansas City Royals’ 23rd-round pick out of San Joaquin Delta College earlier this month, was the first player to check the field up close. A few minutes later, he was in the home dugout taking photographs with his phone. “Everything is beautiful,” said the 6-foot-6, 210-pound right-handed pitcher, who had never traveled across the country. “It looks great.”

• Derek Hill (Elk Grove) was named to Baseball America’s High School All-American first-team. Hill was the Detroit Tigers’ first-round pick earlier this month.

• The first minor-league hit by third baseman J.D. Davis (Elk Grove) of the Tri-City (Troy, N.Y.) Valley Cats of the Class-A Short-Season New York-Penn League was a two-run homer.

• In his first game with the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins of the rookie Appalachian League, outfielder Austin Diemer (Rocklin) had a three-run homer.

• New Hampshire Fisher Cats first baseman Gabe Jacobo (UC Davis) was released by the Toronto Blue Jays.

• Right-hander Tanner Mendonca (Sac State),


was released by the Minnesota Twins, signed with the Chicago White Sox and is with the AZL White Sox of the rookie Arizona League.

• Right-hander Justin Haley (Bella Vista, Sierra College) of the Salem (Va.) Red Sox took the loss in the Carolina League All-Stars’ 3-2 defeat against the California League on June 17 at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Del.

• Dallas Braden (American River College), who threw a perfect game for the A’s on May 9, 2010, against the Tampa Bay Rays, is a commentator on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

• Bob Oliver (Highlands, American River) is one of three local players with six hits in a game. Oliver had four singles, a double and homer for the expansion Kansas City Royals on May 4, 1969. The others were Hank Steinbacher (Sacramento High) with the White Sox on June 22, 1938, and Myril Hoag (Sacramento) with the New York Yankees on June 6, 1934.

• The last player to hit for the cycle in the New York-Penn League was outfielder Jimmy Bosco (Jesuit) of the State College (University Park, Pa.) Spikes on June 26, 2013, against the Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio) Scrappers.

• Dustin Pedroia (Woodland) of the Boston Red Sox was mentioned on Tuesday’s episode of TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” when an amnesia victim couldn’t tell Dr. Maura Isles her name but knew the name of her favorite team and favorite player.

• Nick Madrigal, who will be a senior at Elk Grove High, has been selected to the USA Baseball 44-player roster for the 18-and-under National Team trials. The roster will be reduced to 20 players for international play. The players will be in Houston from Aug. 23-29 for the trials before traveling to the 18U COPABE Pan American Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sept. 5-14.