The Saguaros have been the highest-scoring offense in the Arizona Fall League this season. Thursday, they once again showed how good they can be.
Surprise knocked 20 hits and defeated Peoria, 14-5, at Surprise Stadium. With the victory, the Saguaros lowered their magic number to clinch the West Division to three with six games to play. The Javelinas were eliminated from postseason contention.
Ryan Rua helped lead the offensive outburst, as he continues to slowly break out of his slump. The Rangers' farmhand went 2-for-6 with four RBIs and a run scored. He has a modest five-game hitting streak, but entered the day with a .152 batting average.
"So far this fall league has been a little slow for me, but it's starting to pick up," Rua said. "I'm getting a groove, in a rhythm."
Though Rua's fall hasn't been as successful as he would like, he has made an improbable ascent in the Minor Leagues. Lightly recruited coming out of high school in Amherst, Ohio, Rua wound up at Division II Lake Erie College. He went on to become the first player drafted in program history when the Rangers selected him in the 17th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Since then, he has steadily climbed through the Minor Leagues to reach Double-A Frisco in August.
While Rua is not one of the most highly regarded prospects in the AFL, he is proud of how far he has come as a baseball player.
"It's been a cool journey," Rua said. "I'm pleased with myself. Since I got drafted and went to rookie ball, there's been a lot of hard work. I'm adjusting to things and taking new things from every game."
Rua contributed early to Surprise's offensive onslaught. He drove in two runs with a two-out single in the first, capping the Saguaros' four-run inning. He added another two-run single in the third inning as Surprise broke the game open with four more runs.
The 14 runs were the most Surprise scored in a game this season. All of the Saguaros starters had at least one hit and scored at least one run. Travis Shaw went 4-for-5 with a double and a walk. Jonathan Schoop hit his third home run of the fall, and the Orioles' No. 4 prospect finished the game 3-for-3 with two walks.
While Surprise had its best offensive day of the season, Peoria was unable to match it. After falling behind, 4-0, in the first inning, the Javelinas got back in the game with three runs in the bottom of the second. After an error by second baseman Joe Wendle helped extend the inning, Delino DeShields hit a bases-loaded single. Two runs scored on the hit and another came home on right fielder Mitch Haniger's error.
But the Javelinas managed little offense as the Saguaros pulled away and didn't score again until the seventh inning. DeShields, the Astros' No. 7 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run. Jorge Bonifacio, the Royals' No. 5 prospect, added two hits and an RBI.
Though it has been Rua's struggles on offense that have been most notable so far in the AFL, he said his biggest focus is improving his defense. He also has been working at better pitch recognition and seeing the ball longer into the hitting zone.
Rua said the biggest lesson he's learned in the AFL is the importance of being ready to play every day.
"Not taking anything for granted," Rua said. "We're playing with the best prospects in the game here. I want to enjoy it and have fun."