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Going, going, still going, gone

Goldeyes' Abercrombie hits it miles...if he connects

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The moment Reggie Abercrombie's bat cracked against the ball in the bottom of the sixth, he knew that sucker was gone.

This was on Thursday night, the first of the Goldeyes' four home games against the visiting Lincoln Saltdogs, and the home team was trailing 4-2. Josh Mazzola was lurking on second base after his leadoff double, and there was one out.

Then Abercrombie, the former major leaguer with plenty of power expectation on his shoulders, stepped up to the plate. The very first pitch he faced from reliever Jake Meiers, well, he slammed it right out of Shaw Park. The outfielder stood there for a moment, watched its arc trail over the left-field fence. Then he flipped his bat, and took the victory lap on his third round-tripper of the season.

"Aww man, that felt good," Abercrombie said before facing the Saltdogs again on Friday night. "Any time you get a good swing on there right off the bat, it's pretty fun. And anytime you start off slow, like how I've been starting out, and you can contribute to the team, it's pretty good."

That wasn't Abercrombie's only hit in Thursday's game, as he also collected a pair of singles in four at-bats. It was the one that tied the game, that gave his team a shot of momentum they would carry for an 8-5 win. "A little swagger, yeah," Goldeyes slugger Ray Sadler said.

"Hitting is contagious, you know. Some guys hit, then that might spark something."

On Friday night, he proved a hero again, scoring the two-run homer that gave the Goldeyes a 5-4 walk-off win to stop a late Lincoln comeback. His teammates flooded onto the field, the relief and elation beaming all over their faces.

And of all the Fish hitters, Abercrombie was one who most needed that spark.

Despite holding an average of .312 through 263 career American Association games, he'd been mostly swinging cold to start 2014. After two hitless tilts earlier this week, his batting average dipped to a low of .185. Meanwhile, he's struck out 20 times -- only two players in the league have been stung for more.

"For me, it was just chasing pitches," he said. "I'm not out of it yet. I'm not where I want to be right now, but eventually you're going to get out of it."

Through those disappointing early outings, Abercrombie said he watched guys go up and take their crack, and took some inspiration from that -- especially, he said, the boffo performance of backup catcher Jordan Guida, who's hitting .538 through 13 at-bats in six games. "That's unheard of," Abercrombie said. "Anytime you got a player coming off the bench, hitting .500, putting the ball to the barrel every time he gets out there.. that's amazing."

So now, the trick will be to keep it going, to crack those power hits manager Rick Forney signed him on to get.

It helps, he said, that everyone from his teammates to Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier have had his back. "I give them all the praise for that game," Abercrombie said.

"They have never, ever said anything negative about how I was going through a struggle. Even if I go out, strike out, whatever I did, they're there for me, patting me on the back. I love them to death for that."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 31, 2014 C7

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