Jaxx Notes: "Hoff-power"

There must be something Micah Hoffpauir loves about Pringles Park, and vice-versa.

In his first four games at the Diamond Jaxx home park, the 26-year-old Hoffpauir is 9-for-16 with three home runs, two doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs scored.

On Wednesday night in Jackson, the lefty hitting first baseman was 3-for-4 with a home run and two singles as Double A West Tenn defeated Mississippi, 6-4. Hoffpauir launched his fifth home run of the season and his fourth in five games.

Listed at 6'3" and 195 pounds, Hoffpauir (actually pronounced ‘HOFF-POWER') is all muscle. He is unmistakably visible to the common spectator when taking batting practice or even when casually roaming around the clubhouse.

Drafted as a two-time all-Southland Conference selection from Lamar University in 2002 with only mediocre power numbers in his first three full seasons at the professional level, Hoffpauir has consistently maintained his stance as a gap-to-gap, line drive hitter.

He is rich in doubles as opposed to the commercial appeal of the home run. That was never more evident than in 2003 when playing for Class A Daytona. Hoffpauir totaled 33 doubles that year to place third in the Florida State League.

After hitting just four roundtrippers and a career low 14 doubles for any stint above Low-A ball in 2005, Hoffpauir has thus far rebounded nicely coming off his down year at Iowa a season ago and made more than an impressive showing at West Tenn in place of the injured Brian Dopirak, the team's slated starter at first prior to a broken bone in his left foot.

"Losing Dopirak opened up some doors for guys like Hoffpauir," said first-year West Tenn manager Pat Listach. "He's the logical choice at first. We had Richard Lewis in there one day, but for the most part, Hoffpauir is basically the only first baseman we have."

So what's the secret to Hoffpauir's early season power surge?

"There's not really any secret," he said. "I've slowed things down and there were pitches I was missing at the start of the season that I'm not missing any more. It helps when you get a good pitch to hit and you actually put it in play. That's all I'm doing, just squaring up on a few balls."

Is he developing into a power hitter?

"I wouldn't say that," Hoffpauir said. "My goal is to still hit the ball to left-center and right-center, to hit doubles and to drive in runs. If the home runs come, it's a bonus. As far as developing into a power hitter per se, I wouldn't really label myself as one right now."

It's also possible that Hoffpauir is just seeing the ball better at the Jaxx stadium.

"That may be it," he said. "But it's one of those things where I don't think it would really matter where I was at right now. The ball is just really big to me at the moment."

Hoffpauir extended his hitting streak to seven games and has now hit safely in 10 of his last 11 starts with a .327 average overall. His 16 RBIs leads the Double-A club.

The Jaxx overcame a shaky start by LHP Chris Shaver in his Double-A debut to improve to 10-4. Shaver gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. LHP Clay Rapada extended his scoreless streak to 11 1/3 innings to open the year and earned his second win in relief. Rapada pitched two perfect innings and has allowed three hits in eight appearances.

West Tenn pitching continues to lead the Southern League with a combined 1.71 ERA, almost a full point better than second-place Birmingham's 2.62 mark. Thanks to their recent explosion at the plate with 27 runs in their first four home games, the Jaxx now also have a league best .265 batting average, edging Montgomery's .260 clip.

"We've gotten off to a decent start considering we have 15 of our first 20 games on the road," added Listach. "We're having fun."

ELSEWHERE ON THE FARM … In Albuquerque, N.M., Iowa felt the effects of high altitudes for the second straight night and lost, 8-4, on Wednesday. The Triple-A team fell to 7-7. Angel Guzman gave up an unusually high seven earned runs on six hits in six innings. Guzman struck out nine and walked two. OF Felix Pie hit his third triple for the offense and scored his eighth run of the season while driving in his 15th.

In Daytona, the Cubs Advanced-A affiliate won their first back-to-back contests of the year, beating St. Lucie, 4-0. Starter Mark Holliman kept his opponents in check with four hits allowed in 6 1/3 shutout innings. Holliman struck out seven and displayed much better command than in his previous start against Palm Beach when he walked five. On Wednesday, he allowed one free pass en route to his first professional victory as Daytona improved to 4-9.

The offense totaled 12 hits for the second straight night. Five players finished with two-hit performances, including: OF Sam Fuld, third baseman Jemel Spearman, OF Nic Jackson, catcher Jake Fox, and for the first time all season, first baseman Matt Craig. OF Ryan Harvey was 0-for-4 with a strikeout as his average sank to .205. After reaching base safely in his first seven contests, Harvey is now hitless in his last 17 at-bats with 17 strikeouts to one walk on the year.

In Beloit, Wis., Peoria dropped their second straight, 8-2. Starter Mike Billek, who like Holliman was a third-round pick in last year's draft, was tagged for a career high eight runs and 10 hits in four innings to fall to 0-3 in as many starts. Billek hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in any outing this season with 19 runs (13 earned) allowed in 12 2/3 innings.

OF/DH Johnny Defendis extended his hitting streak to four games with his first two-hit night of the year, but is batting just .172 in eight starts after a 0-for-16 start to the season. Shortstop Dylan Johnston stole his fourth base and racked up two hits for his fourth multi-hit game in 10 starts. Peoria fell to 5-8.

Steve Holley is the publisher of Inside The Ivy. In addition to his work for Scout.com, he also covers Nicholls State University athletics for the Tri-Parish Times in southeast Louisiana. E-mail Steve at staff@insidetheivy.com.

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