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Norwich - Ben Verlander made the transition from pitching to full-time hitting this year at Old Dominion … just in time to be drafted by the Detroit Tigers and sent to spacious Dodd Stadium, where fly balls go to die.
"I've hit a couple in BP (batting practice), but that's it," said Verlander, nine years younger than his brother, Justin, the star pitcher of the major league Tigers.
Verlander, the Tigers' 14th-round pick, made one count in the first inning Wednesday night at Dodd Stadium, hitting a home run for the first time as a professional. He hit a two-run shot that cleared the left field fence and finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored in the Tigers' 10-3 victory over the Vermont Lake Monsters in a New York-Penn League game.
The Tigers had 13 hits.
"It's definitely different. I like playing every day," said Verlander, the Tigers' right fielder, who hit .367 with 11 homers at Old Dominion this year as a junior. "It was after my sophomore season I sat down with my coach and decided just to hit, just to go for it.
"… My brother called me and told me I had a successful year in college, just take it to pro ball and continue it there."
Verlander came into Wednesday's game hitting .261 with a double and two RBI.
In his first two at-bats against the Lake Monsters he had a homer and a double with three RBI.
"He had a great game today, it was good for him," said Tigers manager Andrew Graham, who added that Verlander might also see some time at first base. "He put up some numbers this year in college. I'm happy to put him in there in the three hole."
The Tigers scored four runs in the first inning, with Kasey Coffman delivering a one-out single and scoring on Verlander's home run. Duncan McAlpine reached on an error, Javier Azcona doubled one out later and Patrick Leyland drove in both runners with a single to right.
Connecticut added single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth and two in the eighth.
The Tigers scored in the sixth when Brett Harrison forced himself into a rundown to allow Coffman to score easily from third base. Coffman doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to third when Harrison reached on an error.
In the eighth, McAlpine had an RBI double and Harrison a sacrifice fly for the final margin.
Coffman finished with three hits for the Tigers (3-6) and Johnnie Kirkland earned the victory in relief, pitching three innings and allowing just one hit.
The 10 runs were a season high for Connecticut, which trailed 8-0 the night before against Tri-City before scoring six times to get back in the game, falling 8-6.
"Early in the season the bats have been quiet," Graham said. "Guys are playing their first games as pros, getting used to aluminum bats. But they're starting to buy into it. … We had 13 hits tonight and a lot of them for extra bases (five doubles and the home run)."
The teams play again at 7:05 tonight at Dodd Stadium, with Tigers right-hander Jonathon Crawford making his second start of the season. The Tigers' first-round draft pick this year, selected 20th overall, Crawford pitched two perfect innings in his first game as a pro last Friday against the Lake Monsters, striking out three.
Graham said Crawford, because he is coming off his college season at Florida, is on a strict pitch count and will throw no more than three innings at a time all season. The same goes for a good number of the Tigers' pitchers, including second-round pick Kevin Ziomek, who joined the team Wednesday.
"We take care of our pitchers," Graham said. "Because we drafted so many pitchers and they're restricted, we're carrying 17 pitchers right now and only 13 position players."