Collin Cowgill has amply demonstrated he can help the Yakima Bears win with the longball. On Wednesday night, he helped produce a victory with three longballs and one not-so-longball.
The 2008 fifth-round Draft pick belted three home runs, then singled in the bottom of the 11th inning to spark a three-run rally as the Bears stunned the Spokane Indians, 9-8, at Yakima County Stadium.
Three nights after homering twice and driving in a career-high six runs, Cowgill smacked two-run blasts in the third and fifth. He led off the ninth with his Northwest League-leading 10th homer, forcing extra innings.
"The count was 1-2 or 2-2 and the guy kind of left a changeup over the middle part of the plate," Cowgill said. "I hit it well to right-center field."
His most important at-bat of the night may have come in the 11th, with the bases empty and the Bears (7-9) down to their final out. Cowgill capped a 4-for-6 effort with a single to left field.
"There were two outs and we needed to get something going," he noted. "At that point, I wasn't trying to do too much. Even if another ball goes out of the yard, it doesn't really do anything. We needed baserunners."
Alfredo Marte reached when shortstop Edward Koncel misplayed his grounder and Cowgill scored on Andrew Fie's base hit to right field. Ryan Babineau followed with a double to right, plating Marte and Fie to snap Yakima's three-game losing streak.
"Everybody on this team contributed," Cowgill said. "Fie comes up in the bottom of the 11th with an eight- or nine-pitch at-bat and gets a single to right that scores one. Babineau had another great at-bat, hit a double to the right-center field gap that scores two. It was just a great game, a lot of fun to be part of."
Cowgill, a 22-year-old outfielder who was selected by the Diamondbacks out of the University of Kentucky, leads all short-season players in home runs. He fell one shy of tying Brandon Cashman's 2004 Northwest League record for homers in a game and is nearly halfway to William Darkis' 1980 single-season mark of 25.
"It's kind of weird," Cowgill said. "I ended up the [college] season in a big slump. I'd been struggling the last month or so, my power had gone down."
Cowgill has been working with Bears hitting coach Chris Chris Briones, trying to make his swing "shorter and quicker" as he continues the transition from metal bats to wood.
"I hit pretty much every day and I'm back to where I was the first couple of months of the college season," he said.
But he admitted he's never had a stretch like this.
"I don't think so. I had a stretch in high school, but nothing like this, at this level," Cowgill said. "It's a different kind of weird experience."
The Lexington, Ky., native also credited Yakima manager Bob Didier, who's in his 42nd year as a professional player, coach, scout or manager.
"When he talks, everybody listens," Cowgill said. "He has so many stories, so much knowledge. I'm fortunate to be in a situation where my manager has 40-something years of professional experience. Whatever I'm going through, he can relate. It's a fortunate spot for all of us to be here."
Cowgill admitted he'd never been west of the Mississippi River before joining the Bears, calling it "a new experience."
"This is a start anyone would want to have to their professional career," he added. "Hopefully, it'll get better."
Ariel Brea (1-2) secured the win, despite allowing two runs -- one earned -- on one hit and three walks in one inning. Cliff Springston (0-1) was charged with four runs -- one earned -- on four hits over 3 2/3 innings for the Indians (11-4), who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Spokane's Jared Bolden hit a solo homer and scored twice.