Thursday was a night to remember for Brandon Benson.
The State College Spikes outfielder was 4 for 5 with six RBIs in a decisive 9-0 win over the Williamsport Crosscutters.
“It was awesome,” the Georgia native said. “I’ve had a couple college games like that, but having a professional game like that was awesome.”
And, as if that wasn’t good enough, he capped the performance at BB&T Park at Bowman Field with a ninth-inning grand slam crushed to left field.
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It wasn’t too bad for just the ninth game of his pro baseball career.
“You can play your whole career and not have a game like that,” State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “He’s fortunate to do it early in his career.”
You can play your whole career and not have a game like that.
State College Spikes manager Joe Kruzel
He couldn’t quite match the performance Friday night in the Spikes’ return home, going 0 for 2 with a walk and plating a run with a sacrifice fly in a 6-1 win over the Auburn Doubledays.
Benson has been tearing things up this season. In just 10 games as a pro, he is hitting .316 with hits in seven of those games and a dozen total.
The performance is nothing new for the Spikes outfielder. He was a consensus first-team Division II All-American at Georgia College, batting .395 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. He also was a finalist for the Division II Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.
Over four seasons he racked up 265 hits, 43 homers and 189 RBIs at the small school in Milledgeville, in central Georgia, a couple hours south of Atlanta. Those kind of numbers are pretty impressive no matter the level, especially from someone with a 6-foot, 190-pound frame.
The St. Louis Cardinals were impressed and spent a 20th-round draft pick on him in June.
“No matter what division you play of college baseball, and you put up solid numbers that are above what the league is averaging,” Kruzel said. “It’s still not that easy.”
Benson said he had a few offers from Division I programs, but only for partial scholarships. He went to a pro workout before college, so he knew this next step was a possibility.
He didn’t think the transition, aided by playing last year in the Northwoods Summer League, was too difficult. He also has been enjoying getting extra coaching and pointers — and not having to worry about schoolwork anymore.
“It’s definitely better quality of play. The pitchers are definitely a little bit better,” he said. “I think I’m ready for it.”
On Thursday, as he was enjoying his big night, his parents were there in spirit, listening to the game while sitting on a beach in Florida. After the game, they sent him a video of them cheering his big hits from the beach.
The screams were the loudest for the grand slam as he was looking for the fastball on the 3-1 count.
“I had a feeling it had a chance,” Benson said of the moment after the ball left his bat. “I was still running hard. I didn’t want to take the risk.”