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Asche lashes out

T'jacks slugger rides yet another hot streak

Three weeks weeks ago, Southern Oregon Timberjacks' right fielder Kirk Asche embarked on a hitting rampage.

Asche, 22, was the talk of the Northwest League. The chatter still hasn't died down as he's risen to the top of several league batting categories.

You could see how much potential he really has, says Timberjacks' manager Greg Sparks. I think he could be a 30-homer guy some day in the major leagues.

He still has things to work on, like being more patient as a hitter, but he has all kinds of potential. He's one of the best prospects we (the Oakland A's) have as a young outfielder.

A ninth-round draft choice in June out of Jacksonville University, Asche went 12-for-26 with four home runs, three doubles and 14 RBIs from July 12-18.

He knew he'd have to deal with a cooling-off period.

Nobody can keep that up, but it still gave me confidence, even when I had a little lull in my hitting, says Asche, who regained his prolific stroke during the Timberjacks' current homestand.

In the three games leading to Monday's contest, he had hit .600, including going 5-for-7 Saturday and Sunday.

Prior to Monday, he led the Northwest League in runs batted in with 45 and ranked second in home runs with 12. Batting .307, he was second in the league in slugging percentage (.664) and runs (38).

He's a strong kid who has worked hard in the weight room, says Sparks. He's a natural power hitter.

Asche singled in the game-winning run in the eighth inning of the Timberjacks' 9-8 win over Spokane Saturday.

Except for his one-week lull, Asche is pleased with the way his first professional season is unfolding.

I've had everything working pretty well, he says. I was getting good pitches to hit, especially fastballs, during my first streak, and now the coaches have been working with me to stay patient and wait for my pitch.

I've been right on the ball and seeing it real good. It's fun. I think I've proven to myself that I can hit at this level.

Asche is a power hitter with a natural stroke. His favorite diet: a feast of fastballs.

Problem is, says Sparks, the other pitchers in this league have learned he has some juice (power) when he hits a fastball. He's not getting as many now. But if he lays off the bad pitches and gets the count his way, he will get his pitches to hit.

As his servers bring entree after entree of off-speed pitches -- curveballs, sliders, change-ups and the like -- Asche adapts more and more.

Everybody wants to get fastballs to hit, he says. That's what I grew up on, but I'm learning to see the ball and hit the breaking pitches and off-speed stuff.

I'm learning to adjust, he says.

Hitting isn't Asche's only asset. He also has the strongest arm among Timberjack outfielders.

In fact, he was drafted earlier by the Anaheim Angels as a pitcher after his freshman year at Edison Junior College in Florida.

The Angels, aware of his strong arm and overall athleticism, weren't certain how they'd use him.

I decided to stay in college then, says Asche, because I want to play every day in the outfield, not pitch once every five days.

One of our coaches told me that if I ever stop hitting, come see him and they will turn me into a pitcher. But I'd rather be in the lineup every day swinging the bat.

Sparks says Asche is anything but a polished outfielder.

He needs to improve his defense, even though he has a strong arm, says Sparks. He makes mistakes.

Given his offensive potential, his defensive miscues are forgiven.

Asche is living with the Jim Corbett family of Central Point this summer.

They are great people and they take care of me, says Asche. I get a lot of good food and I get plenty of sleep.

I love it here. The people are nice, and I love the park here (Miles Field). It's a warm, cozy atmosphere.

Especially when he's heating up the place with his bat.

Photo from MT files Kirk Asche could turn into a 30-homer player in the major leagues, says his manager.