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HOCKING SHIFTS POWER FROM ARM TO HIS BAT

SHARE HOCKING SHIFTS POWER FROM ARM TO HIS BAT

Denny Hocking has earned a reputation in the Pacific Coast League for his defense. The Salt Lake Buzz shortstop has good range and an outstanding arm - rated the best in the league by "Baseball America."

But Hocking's reputation might be changing if he keeps up his current trend. It's been his bat - not his glove - that has been on fire recently.Hocking struggled offensively during the first half of the season with his batting average hovering around the .200 mark. It's been a different story of late, however. Hocking continued his recent hot streak at the plate Thursday night by going 2-for-4 with four RBI to lead the Buzz to an 11-4 victory over the Albuquerque Dukes in front of 10,362 fans at Franklin Quest Field and a local television audience.

Hocking has now hit in seven straight games, has four multiple-hit outings in Salt Lake's last five games and has driven in at least one run in five of his last six games. In his last 19 games he's gone 32-for-81 (.395) to raise his batting average to a respectable .271 for the season.

"He's been on a streak since the first of July," Buzz manager Phil Roof said. "When he was hitting .175 or .185 (early in the year) I said, `Don't worry about it. You're going to be hitting .275 by the end of the season.' " Said Hocking, "I didn't start pressing (at the plate) because I knew I would be in the lineup everyday and the hits would come. Luckily they have."

The hits have been plentiful for many of Hocking's teammates the past few weeks as well. Thursday the Buzz pounded 13 hits to raise their team average to .300 for the season, which puts them neck-and-neck with the Calgary Cannons for the league lead. Salt Lake has averaged nine runs in its last six games, scoring in double figures four times.

"Our hitters are all in a grove right now," Roof said. "Hitting is contagious and winning is contagious."

The Buzz improved to 21-20 in the second half with the victory, while the Dukes fell to 23-17.

Lefty Rich Robertson pitched a second consecutive strong game to run his record to 2-0 for the Buzz since being sent down by the parent Minnesota Twins. Robertson gave up two runs on six hits in six innings while striking out five.

The Buzz trailed 2-1 in the fourth inning when they scored four runs off Albuquerque starter Chan Ho Park (5-5). An error by Park with the bases loaded allowed two runs to score and Hocking hit the first of his two two-run singles to give Salt Lake a 5-1 lead.

The Buzz blew the game open in the seventh inning when they scored six runs - all with two outs - on six hits. Hocking and center fielder Steve Hazlett each drove in a pair.

"That's what I call putting the game away," Roof said of the six-run seventh.

The Buzz and Dukes will play the second game of their four-game series tonight. RHP LaTroy Hawkins (5-5, 3.78 ERA) is scheduled to start against RHP Felix Rodriquez (2-1, 4.12).

BUZZ BRIEFS: Greg Hansell made his first appearance as a Buzzman Thursday night against his ex-teammates. Hansell, who came to the Twins in last week's five-player trade with the Dodgers, pitched a perfect eighth inning and striking out two . . . Riccardo Ingram, who has spent the past couple of weeks with the Twins, will be back on the Buzz roster tonight. Ingram, who had just one hit in eight at bats for Minnesota, is in the hunt for the PCL batting title with a .344 average . . . Patrick Lennon, who is hitting .552 with 12 RBI in eight games for the Buzz, missed his fourth consecutive game Thursday with a hamstring injury. He won't likely be back in the lineup for three or four days.