Zach Shank homers twice for the Rainiers

By on June 8, 2016
In his fourth season in the Seattle Mariners’ organization, Lititz’s Zach Shank achieved a professional first on Sunday, slugging two home runs in Triple-A Tacoma’s 6-5 loss at Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Tacoma Rainiers.

In his fourth season in the Seattle Mariners’ organization, Lititz’s Zach Shank achieved a professional first on Sunday, slugging two home runs in Triple-A Tacoma’s 6-5 loss at Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Tacoma Rainiers.

Lititz’s Zach Shank knows that he will never be confused for Mike Schmidt when it comes to hitting long balls.

All the same, he stole a page from the former Phillie great on Sunday afternoon.

Batting ninth and playing center field for the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A club Tacoma, Shank slugged two home runs and finished 3-for-4 in a game at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field.

“That’s the first time I’ve done it in my professional career, so it was kinda cool,” Shank laughed.

Unfortunately for the Rainiers, however, their comeback from a 3-0 first-inning deficit fell short, as the Las Vegas 51s, an affiliate of the New York Mets, held on for a 6-5 victory.

“It’s a tough place to pitch the way the ball carries,” said Shank, a 2009 Warwick grad playing his fourth season in the Mariners’ system. “We kinda clawed our way back in there and we just weren’t able to hold them off quite long enough. It was a good game and we fought back, but they just had a little too much for us (Sunday).”

Trailing by three going to the third, the Rainiers got a shot in the arm when Shank made Las Vegas pitcher Seth Lugo pay on a hanging breaking ball, slugging a one-out solo home run over the 328-foot sign in left.

“I was just able to get the barrel to it,” Shank recalled. “We’re playing in Las Vegas and the ball travels pretty well here. The wind was blowing out a little bit to left too, so I had a little help from the conditions.”

Sunday’s contest marked Shank’s return to the starting lineup for the first time in four games. Part of that could have been due to M’s starting shortstop Ketel Marte making a rehab assignment with Tacoma. Some was also a result of Rainiers’ manager Pat Listach giving him a couple extra days off after getting hit by a line drive during batting practice on June 2.

“I think it was a combination of both,” Shank said.

If there was any rust, it certainly didn’t show. Shank lined a single to left in his second at-bat, igniting a three-run fifth-inning rally, and then he slugged his second homer of the game in the top of the sixth- this time off of reliever Zack Thornton – to left-center, which gave Tacoma a 5-4 lead.

“I just got a couple pitches that I could handle and put them in the air and they went over the fence,” he said. “Home runs a lot of times, for a guy like me, are mistakes, really. I’m not trying to hit the ball in the air because I don’t have a ton of power. But when I do and I get it right, it can carry over the fence.”

The 51s tied it in the bottom of the sixth on Travis Taijeron’s RBI single, and then former Phillie Justin DeFratus took the loss as Taijeron had an RBI ground out in the bottom of the eighth.

In the top of that frame, Shank dug into the batter’s box for his final at-bat. No doubt, there were fans among the 3,165 in attendance watching closely to see if he could go yard yet again.

Shank, however, wasn’t tempted. His approach remained the same — try to hit a low line drive, maybe shoot a gap. He ended up popping out to shortstop Gavin Cecchini.

“I was just trying to do what I had done in my previous at-bats,” Shank said, “stay within myself, just get a pitch I could handle and put a good swing on it.”

More often than not this season, Shank has put together quality at-bats. His three-hit effort on Sunday, coupled with a 4-for-5, 2 RBI game in Tacoma’s 9-1 win against Las Vegas on Monday, raised his average to .389 in 12 games with the Rainiers. That stat, however, is secondary in Shank’s mind.

“I don’t ever look at my average,” he said. “i try to take every at-bat as one at-bat, basically, because if you start thinking about average, you start struggling and you’re going to try to get three hits in one at-bat, that mentality of, ‘I’ve got to get my average up.’ So this year, I’ve really been focusing on just trying to learn something about myself, about my plate appearances every single at-bat. I think that’s helped me stay in each at-bat and not allow a couple bad at-bats turn into 10 bad at-bats. I think it’s helped me just kinda stay even-keeled.”

The efforts of Tacoma hitting coach Scott Brosius, a star during the New York Yankees’ run of three straight World Series titles from 1998-2000, cannot be overlooked either. His style has meshed well with Shank.

“(Brosius) is awesome,” Shank said. “He’s a super nice, soft-spoken guy. You can ask him any questions, he’ll try to give you answers, he’ll give you little pointers here and there and he’s the kind of guy that he’s not going to overwhelm you with information, which I think helps a lot. A lot of times, you run into guys who are very smart and they’ll tell you everything they see and it’s just too much to comprehend at one time. And Brosius is really good at just giving me a couple little things here and there to focus on. I think that helps a lot.”

On Sunday, the results were unquestioned.

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