When Cory Vaughn made his Arizona Fall League debut with the Scottsdale Scorpions on Oct. 8, more than a month had elapsed since the Mets prospect had faced live pitching. A family matter had kept him home during instructional league play, and a rusty Vaughn started his AFL season 0-for-9.
But the 24-year-old outfielder has heated up of late. His 2-for-4 performance against Peoria on Saturday afternoon at Surprise Stadium included three RBIs and a stolen base, and it gave Vaughn his second multihit effort out of his past three starts.
Vaughn contributed a game-tying RBI single in the fifth inning and a two-run triple in the eighth to help Scottsdale pull away for a 12-7 victory. The Scorpions have won three of their past four following a five-game losing streak, and Vaughn has been finding his stroke along with them.
"It was just all about timing and not panicking too much," Vaughn said of his early struggles. "Of course, I want to go out there and hit the ball hard every time from the get-go, but in baseball, that's really hard to do. So I just had to take a step back, just relax, breathe and really be patient and embrace the grind, try to focus and not panic. Now that my timing's back and I'm seeing the ball a little bit better, things are working out for me."
Vaughn, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of San Diego State, split his fourth year in the Mets' system between three levels. He spent the bulk of his time at Double-A Binghamton, where he hit .267/.346/.424, with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs and nine steals in 71 games.
Vaughn said the Mets' message to him heading into the AFL season was to achieve greater consistency in his overall game. One good sign that emerged on Saturday was his use of the opposite field.
In the fifth, the right-handed hitter faced Adys Portillo -- the Padres' No. 8 prospect -- with two runners aboard and one out, worked the count full, then got a fastball away and ripped a line drive to right to tie the game, 4-4. During Scottsdale's six-run eighth that stretched a 5-4 advantage, Vaughn hit another liner to right -- this one off Ken Giles -- and turned it into a triple when Jorge Bonifacio missed on a diving attempt.
"That's a great sign, I think for any hitter, to be able to hit the ball hard to the opposite field," Vaughn said. "My hands are a lot faster than my brain realizes, so sometimes I get out in front a little bit. So I just try to stay relaxed and set my targets to right-center field so I can stay on the ball. So if I'm a little early, I'll pull it and it'll stay fair. If I'm a little late, I'll hit it to dead right. That's what I've been trying to do, and I've been pleased with how I've been hitting it."
The Scorpions had taken the lead in the seventh on Braves prospect Robby Hefflinger's sacrifice fly off Alex Sogard.
"He was a lefty, and he threw me a first-pitch fastball and I fouled it down the line," Hefflinger said. "He came back with it again, and I lined it. Put a good swing on it and lined it to right. Like I said, I was just trying to get something up in the zone, put a good swing on it and drive it."
Shortstop Alen Hanson, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, hit a two-run single in the eighth to make it 7-4, finishing the game with three hits out of the leadoff spot. Between Hanson and Vaughn in the order was Braves prospect Elmer Reyes, who went 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs. Hefflinger also drove in three runs, while No. 14 Padres prospect Cory Spangenberg went 4-for-5 for Peoria.