A Wingnuts fan created confusion Tuesday night when he approached first baseman C.J. Ziegler and asked him to sign "your first home run ball."
Of the night? Of the week? Of the season? Ziegler is hitting so many homers that it’s becoming difficult to keep track.
He hit two more Tuesday, raising his league-leading total to 13 in the Wingnuts’ 10-1 win over St. Paul at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Ziegler also tops the American Association in RBIs, with 44, and the potential for a long bomb is giving his at-bats can’t-miss status.
"A lot of times I don’t even watch where they end up, but tonight I watched where that second one ended up, over the scoreboard," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "What a sound off the bat he makes. He’s such a big guy (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) that if he puts barrel on it, it’s got a chance to go out."
Ziegler has three-multi homer games this season and all but two of his blasts have happened since June 2. He’s threatening to shatter multiple league records, notably for homers and RBIs in a season.
His current pace would have Ziegler hitting 35 homers and driving in 119, which would push Brandon Sing’s 27-homer 2010 campaign and Cesar Nicolas’s 103 RBIs in 2009 to a distant second place.
Ziegler has cause to think about big individual numbers since the 28-9 Wingnuts have a comfortable lead in the Central Division, but he’s not one to project statistics.
"It’s something you don’t want to think about," Ziegler said. "You have a plan, you need to stick with it, and that’s what I’ve been doing.… Whatever I can do to help us. I’m just having fun. I can’t explain it. The way things have been going (personally), I’m excited, but I love the way we’ve been playing."
Ziegler isn’t the only Wingnuts player threatening records. Starting pitcher Josh Lowey, who improved to 7-0 in eight starts, has the league mark of 14 wins within reach. Lowey has won 18 consecutive decisions dating to last season, when he pitched in the Frontier League.
Lowey had efficiency to thank for helping his winning streak continue on Tuesday, as he got through four innings on 35 pitches. He was at 95 through eight and may have had a chance for a complete game if the Wingnuts didn’t have a big lead.
The only misstep for Lowey was in the third, when St. Paul scored after a leadoff double by Jose Hernandez. That ended up being one of his most effective innings, though, because he retired the next three batters on seven total pitches.
"He was spectacular," Hooper said. "He usually is, though. ...He’s done a tremendous job making adjustment on that off-speed pitch. You couldn’t tell by his tempo tonight what he was throwing. It was good to see; he was tremendous."
The Wingnuts gave Lowey plenty of support, especially in the form of Ziegler’s homers, which are eye-popping as much for their height as where they land.
His second shot had enough hang time to clear the high scoreboard beyond the left field fence, and the parking lot behind the pavillion in left is no stranger to baseballs of his bat, either.
Ziegler’s showstopping night came with a scout from the Philadelphia Phillies in attendance, one who expressed intrigue, at least, in Ziegler before the game. Philadelphia plucked outfielder Brent Clevlen from the Wingnuts last season.
"I don’t care about a hit to the lineup (if Ziegler was picked up), I’ll make the adjustment there," Hooper said. "I’ll find somebody if that’s the case. I want them all to get signed, bottom line."
Ziegler’s homers highlighted a Wingnuts offense that also played station-to-station at times. They drew six walks and wore out Saints pitchers, forcing three of them to throw a combined 178 pitches. Ryan Khoury was the catalyst, drawing three walks and seeing 31 pitches in five plate appearances.
"It starts with Khoury," Ziegler said. "I think he drew 13, 14 pitches in his first two at-bats. We’re putting pressure on them no matter where we are. All around, it’s been really nice."
|Rapoport cf||4||0||2||0||Khoury ss||2||1||1||0|
|Frost ss||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||0||0||1|
|Costa lf||4||0||1||0||Rodriguez dh||5||0||1||1|
|Sheldon dh||3||0||1||0||Richardson 3b||5||3||3||0|
|Bourquin 1b||3||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||4||2||2||3|
|Townsend 3b||3||0||0||0||Peralta rf||4||2||2||1|
|Hernandez rf||3||1||1||0||Tellam c||5||1||3||2|
|Johnson c||3||0||0||0||McDonald lf||3||0||0||1|
|Townsend 2b||3||0||0||1||Conroy cf||4||1||2||0|
E—Frost (5), Hernandez (2). LOB— St. Paul 2, Wichita 10. DP— Wichita 2. 2B— Rapoport (5), Hernandez (8), Tellam (2) . HR — Ziegler 2 (13). SB — Conroy (8). SF — McDonald.
Umpires — home, Bryan Childe; first, Andrew Carroll; second, Rich Gunton. T — 2:31. A — 3,265.