QUINCY — Matt Westphal has seen plenty of games at QU Stadium over the last three years.
Even he has trouble recollecting the times he’s seen a home run to straight away center field.
“Not many,” said Westphal the Hannibal Hoots’ catcher and junior for the Quincy University baseball team. “I think I heard (former QU player Cody Birdsong) hit one there last year. I remember seeing Michael Nielsen hit one over the batter’s eye in batting practice.”
Hannibal Hoots manager Clayton Hicks, who also played baseball at QU, also struggled.
“Not very often,” Hicks said. “It doesn’t happen too often.”
Westphal added his name to that short list of recent hitters to hit a home run to center, which is believed to be about 410 feet away from home plate. Westphal’s solo home run in the top of the eighth inning Saturday night was the finishing touch to the Hoots’ 15-10 victory over the Quincy Gems in Prospect League action.
“I was actually kind of surprised it went over,” Westphal said. “It just kept going and going.”
There were plenty of balls hit out of the ballpark between the Hoots (20-29) and the Gems. Both sides combined for eight homers on the night — the Gems hit five, while the Hoots hit three — and none was bigger than Brant Vanaman’s grand slam that highlighted a seven-run third inning for Hannibal.
The Hoots had already scored three runs in the frame on bases-loaded walks before Vanaman belted the grand slam to right-center field, pushing Hannibal’s lead to 9-2.
It was Vanaman’s ninth longball of the season and his fifth in as many games.
“He’s been so hot and so huge for us lately,” Hicks said. “(Sunday) will be his last day for us since he’s going home. But this was a huge win for us, and that was probably one of the biggest ones of the year in terms of what it meant to the guys and this team.”
The Gems (26-23) answered right back in the third as Cade Schares, Kyle Crowl and Corey Young hit home runs in consecutive at-bats and cut the deficit to 9-7. Crowl’s homer was his 15th of the season and ties him with teammate Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli and Champion City’s Bo Seccombe for the league lead.
Hannibal, however, scored four runs in the fourth on a passed ball, two hit batters and a bases-loaded walk that pushed the lead back to 13-7.
The Hoots’ lead was never less than four the rest of the way.
“The biggest thing is when you have a big inning, you need to come back with a zero,” Crowl said. “We didn’t do that tonight. We just didn’t have it tonight.”
Schares hit a second homer, and his fourth in two games, in the eighth inning for the Gems’ final run.
The teams combined for 25 runs and 27 hits. Quincy had 15, while Hannibal had 12.
Hannibal’s Drew Gilin had three hits, including a solo home run and three RBIs. Vanaman, Damian Yenzi, Joey Kalafut and Westphal all had two hits.
Quincy’s Dylan Caplinger went 4 for 5, while Drew Behling, Clark-Chiapparelli, Schares and Young all had two hits apiece.