A new season has brought newfound power to the bat of Colin Walsh.
After combining to hit eight home runs during his first two seasons of professional baseball, the Quad-Cities outfielder has topped that mark 29 games into the 2012 Midwest League season.
Sunday, Walsh belted his eighth and ninth homers as part of a 3-for-4 game which led the River Bandits to a 9-2 victory over Peoria at Modern Woodmen Park.
“The whole year, I’ve been trying to swing harder and hit balls harder to both right and left field and that seems to be working,” Walsh said. “The whole approach has been to swing the bat harder. That’s where it starts.”
Walsh started in the first inning Sunday, driving a no-doubt, three-run blast to right to give Quad-Cities an early lead which reached 9-1 when Walsh sent another ball over the wall in right when he led off the bottom of the seventh inning.
“If you give him a pitch to hit, he’s going to put good wood on it,” River Bandits manager Luis Aguayo said. “He has been aggressive at the plate and he isn’t getting cheated in any of his at-bats.”
Sunday’s effort allowed Walsh to move past Burlington’s Dusty Robinson and Beloit’s Miguel Sano into the top spot on the Midwest League home run charts.
He already has 20 extra-base hits on the season, three shy of his previous career high for a season, and his .294 batting average is the best Walsh has enjoyed in his career.
With the exception of attempting to add velocity to his swing, Walsh has not changed much else in his approach at the plate.
The switch hitter who has seen time as an infielder, outfielder and designated hitter on Aguayo’s lineup card is working to be equally proficient from both sides of the plate.
His heartier cuts have come at a time when Walsh made an effort to return to spring training carrying less weight.
He cut between 10-15 pounds during the offseason, and the Cardinals’ 13th-round pick in the 2010 draft from Stanford believes that might be helping him in some way.
“It may seem strange, but I don’t feel like I’m carrying as much weight around and that may be helping my swing,” Walsh said.
He has benefited from being part of a productive offense which followed Saturday’s 20-run, 23-hit game with an 11-hit performance Sunday.
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“Usually when you see a team put 20 runs up, there is a tendency to let up the next day, but right now, everybody is hitting the ball,” Walsh said. “We want to keep that going as long as we can.”
RIVER BANDITS SCOREBOARD
REBOUNDING: Quad-Cities starting pitcher Hector Hernandez scattered six hits over a six-inning start Sunday, leaving with an 8-1 lead after a four-run fifth that included a two-run single by Roberto De La Cruz and a two-run double by Virgil Hill.
Hernandez did walk five batters but evened his record at 2-2 by rebounding from shaky performances in his last two starts.
QUOTEBOOK: “Coming off of a couple of so-so starts, this was more of what we like to see from Hernandez. He got a little tired at the end, but it was good for him to bounce back.’’ — River Bandits manager Luis Aguayo
EARLY EXIT: Six days back from a stay on the disabled list, Tyler Rahmatulla exited Sunday’s game after being struck in the helmet by a pitch in the fifth inning. Aguayo said the Bandits’ third baseman seemed fine after leaving the field, but he will likely sit out today’s game with the Chiefs.
STILL HITTING: Peoria first baseman Paul Hoilman extended his ongoing hitting streak to 19 games with a fifth-inning single which drove home the Chiefs’ first run, cutting into a 4-0 Quad-Cities lead. The streak is the fourth longest in minor-league baseball this season.
ON DECK: Peoria at Quad-Cities, 11 a.m., today. Probable pitchers: Peoria, P.J. Francescon (2-1, 2.38 ERA); Quad-Cities, Tyrell Jenkins (1-1, 1.59).