SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The ball was carrying out to left field at Surprise Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and the Saguaros used it to their advantage in a 6-3 victory against the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Surprise hit three out to left and left-center to improve to 9-7-1 overall and up its home record to a league best 6-1. Two of the homers came in the bottom of the third to erase an early 1-0 Scorpions lead and the third one broke it open in the bottom of the fifth.
Scottsdale took its brief lead when Mets outfielder Champ Stuart doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on David Fletcher's (Angels' No. 9) groundout in the top of the third inning. Mauricio Dubon (Red Sox's No. 12), a shortstop who continues to get playing time in center field this fall, tied it with one out in the bottom of the frame on a solo shot, his second of the AFL season, to left-center field. One out later, the Pirates' Eric Wood drilled one off the back bullpen wall in left field, his third of the fall, to give the Saguaros a 2-1 lead against Yankees No. 9 James Kaprielian.
"It was a fastball in," Wood said. "It was 3-2. The only good swings that I took off him were on breaking balls, so I figured he was going to pound me in, especially with nobody on. I got it and didn't miss it."
That's how things stood until the bottom of the fifth. Mets No. 11 prospect Marcos Molina came in and got two quick outs on groundballs, but he then walked Wood. Twins catcher and No. 24 prospect Mitch Garver, serving as the designated hitter for Surprise on Saturday, took an 0-1 fastball out to left to give the Saguaros a 4-1 lead.
"Typically, pitchers have liked to pound in hard, then away soft," Wood said. "If you can get the bat head to the ball in and keep it fair, you can take a good pass at it, it takes care of itself."
Wood's organization mates took care of the lead. Starter Tanner Anderson went four solid innings, allowing just the one run on three hits and two walks and four strikeouts. Reliever Edgar Santana (Pirates' No. 29) continued his strong Fall League performance, striking out five over two innings. The right-hander now has 15 strikeouts (vs. no walks) and a 0.00 ERA in 8 2/3 IP.
Wood has been just as successful this fall. A third baseman exclusively throughout his Minor League career, he has been seeing time in the outfield and at first base with the Saguaros. It hasn't hurt his offensive productivity, as he's hit .375 (15-for-40) with three homers and 10 RBIs. He's among the AFL leaders in homers, RBIs, on-base percentage (.468) and slugging percentage (.625).
Those are gaudy numbers for a prospect who just finished his second year in the Double-A Eastern League. While Wood didn't hit for a particularly high average -- he finished at .249 for Altoona -- he did double his career home run total by hitting 16 out during the regular season. He also drew more walks and struck out less frequently compared to his first Double-A season, all positive signs.
When the Pirates drafted Wood in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft out of Blinn College, a two-year school in Texas, they knew he might be a bit of a project. A native of Ontario, Wood didn't even hit full-time until he got to junior college. As a result, he's moved incrementally through the system as he's tried to catch up on the reps that many of his contemporaries may have had as amateurs. Wood feels he's made progress, especially this season.
"At times, there's a learning curve," Wood said. "Especially being able to maintain your confidence is something you have to figure out how to do. Throughout this year, I've definitely taken strides forward with that part of the game."
His performance this fall will certainly help with that endeavor as well, and the more he hits, the more it might make the Pirates' 40-man roster protection decisions a little more difficult. Wood doesn't want to look that far ahead, but he does hope he can continue swinging the bat like he has.
"Just try to keep it going," Wood said is his mantra. "Just one day at a time, but you definitely want to keep it going."