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Former University of Cincinnati star Ian Happ homers in major-league debut with Chicago Cubs

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Posted at 4:43 PM, May 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-13 19:41:31-04

ST. LOUIS - Ian Happ, the highest draft pick in UC baseball history, made his first big-league hit a memorable one.

Happ hit a two-run homer in his major-league debut against the Cardinals Saturday. He was 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk before connecting off Cards starter Carlos Martinez in the seventh inning of the Cubs' 5-3 loss.

Happ joined Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Kosuke Fukudome as Cubs players who have homered in their big-league debut.

After walking in the fifth, Happ was called for slide interference at second, resulting in an inning-ending double play.

Happ, the ninth overall pick in 2015,  batted second - behind Middletown High's Kyle Schwarber - and played right field. He was called up from Triple-A Iowa Saturday on a temporary basis due to injuries, according to the Cubs.

The second baseman/outfielder was hitting .298 with nine home runs, six doubles and 25 RBIs in 26 games at Iowa.

Happ's call-up is reminiscent of Schwarber's in 2015, when the Cubs were beset with injuries and brought up their best hitter from Iowa in May. Schwarber, playing left field Saturday, quickly made his mark as a big-league star.

"I told him to enjoy the moment," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "'You deserve to be here.' I said, 'I don't know if it's going to be a week or the whole season, but just go play. Don't change anything you've been doing.'"

The Cubs are without Addison Russell (right shoulder), Ben Zobrist (back), Kris Bryant (ill) and Jon Jay (back).

Happ impressed the Cubs in spring training, batting .383 in 29 games.

"I felt good about what I did in spring, and being there, being a sponge, picking everybody's brains," Happ said. "I was excited to go to Iowa and compete there and [am] fortunate to end up here."

Happ, a native of Pittsburgh, was on a 10-for-20 tear in his last five games in Iowa. On Friday, he went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. It was his second straight three-hit game.

Happ was drafted two places behind Madeira High's Andrew Benintendi, who is starring for the Boston Red Sox after his call up from Double AA last year.

As a senior at UC, Happ was named the 2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and finished the season as the league leader in batting average (.369), slugging percentage (.672), on-base percentage (.492), total bases (133) and walks (46).

SEE Happ's minor-league stats.