Potomac Nationals shortstop Rick Hague crushed a 10th-inning, walk-off double to lift the P-Nats to a dramatic, 7-6 victory over the Lynchburg Hillcats Sunday.
It marked the first win of the season for the defending Mills Cup champions and involved big plays from Eury Perez, Destin Hood, Cutter Dykstra Stephen King, Brian Peacock, Jeff Kobernus and Steven Souza.
The Rice University product from Spring, Texas, says the work the team did in Florida is showing off even this early in the season.
"Spring training went really well," Hague said. "They worked us hard but I think we all feel we are ready to get started. We are excited."
Hague was a third-round selection in 2010 and played for Team USA during the summer of 2009. He knows that with a new team he has the responsibility to step up and lead by example.
"One thing I have heard a lot from (manager Matt) Lecroy is that I need to be a real leader out there being the shortstop," Hague said. "I just need to learn to lead the guys in a good way and really take charge on and off the field."
The 6-foot-2, 190 lb., Hague grew up learning and watching former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. Now, he likes to watch Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
"I have always played shortstop," Hague said. "You are down the middle of the field and you are going to get some action and you are supposed to be leader out there. That position comes with the responsibility for a good defense and making some plays and I like that."
Hague said that in order for Potomac to be good again this season, it will start with how they stop their opponent right up the middle.
"Consistency in the infield will help our pitching out more than anything else," Hague said. "If they feel comfortable pitching low in the zone and getting ground balls and knowing that we are going to gobble it up and get the guys out they will be able to pitch to their game so much easier and it will be easier on all of us on defense."
Hague focused on building strength and endurance this off season. He came to camp focused on tightening up his swing mechanics so there was not any wasted motion.
"I tried to put in a little bit of strength and gain a little bit of speed," Hague said. "Most of all, I was just working on my swing, trying to be short to the ball. I think it is going to help me this year with letting the ball get deep and pitch recognition."
"I think the things you learn in college, living on your own help a lot. I feel like I have learned so much about baseball, though, since I arrived with the Nationals."
Hague talked about what he is looking to do each time he steps into the batter's box.
"Most of all I got to get a pitch that I can hit," Hague said. "I think sometimes I get little bit too aggressive and chase out of the zone. So, waiting for a good pitch that I can drive and take right back at them."
Hague says Potomac features another young team this year but he says that does not temper the expectations the organization has for the new squad.
"(We have) a lot of youth but with all these guys there names come with talent," Hague said. "They are expecting a lot out of us and we hope that we can show all of our talent on the field."