Dustin DeMuth struck out just four times in his first 54 professional at-bats. Entering Wednesday, the rookie Helena third baseman was leading the Pioneer League in hitting with a sizzling .444 average.
There's nothing complicated about the left-handed-hitting DeMuth's approach at the plate. He's been doing it his whole life.
"I'm just attacking fastballs early in the count," DeMuth explained. "And if they do throw me offspeed early, I try to let that go as much as possible. I'm not trying to hit a home run every time or hit a double every time. If it's pitched outside, I just try to hit it to left field. And if it's inside, pull it."
After a 3-1 victory over Great Falls on Tuesday, DeMuth's numbers looked like something out of a video game: 24 hits, a .483 on-base percentage and a .593 slugging percentage, all of which ranked in the top-two league-wide after 13 games.
The Brewers love DeMuth for his refined eye at the plate. He's renowned in scouting circles for his smooth, compact swing and his ability to hit for a high average. He doesn't have a ton of power, but he's a proven all-fields hitter who consistently puts balls in the gap. Defensively, he has an excellent arm.
DeMuth's quick transition to professional baseball shouldn't come as too big a surprise considering his indomitable four-year career at Indiana University, where his coach, Tracy Smith, considered him one of the best athletes on a campus that offers 22 intercollegiate sports.
DeMuth quarterbacked his high school football team in LaPorte, Indiana, and was also a standout basketball player there. During his senior year, he made all-conference and was named to the all-area team in three sports.
But baseball is his game.
"I just realized that this was my best chance to go far," he said.
At Indiana, DeMuth was the scourge of the Big Ten. He hit .377 as a junior and .374 as a senior, and finished with a career average of .344. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Twins in 2013 but chose to stay in school. This year, the Brewers came calling in the fifth round.
"I wouldn't trade it for anything," DeMuth said. "My senior year in college, being a leader on that team and with the team that we had there. … It gave me a year to mature and helped me realize what kind of player I am and how good I can be if I work hard.
"I think I'm athletic. I can play a lot of positions on the baseball field. I can run, I can hit, I can throw, I can hit for power. … My athleticism has helped me with all those facets of the game. Hopefully it will carry me a long way."
Wins piling up: Orem stretched its winning streak to eight games Tuesday night with a 7-6 victory over Grand Junction. Caleb Adams won it with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. The Owlz are off to a fast start under first-year manager Dave Stapleton, having won 12 of their first 16 games.
Caught in the act: Billings right-hander Jose Guzman was ejected in the second inning against Missoula on June 25 when pine tar was discovered on his glove. Guzman incurred a 10-game suspension and won't be eligible to pitch until July 6.
Power unleashed: With a home run Tuesday against Billings, Missoula's Trevor Mitsui crawled into an eight-way tie for the league's home run lead with three. The catch? The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mitsui, a 30th-round Draft pick of the D-backs in 2014, hit just six homers in three seasons at the University of Washington.