In three seasons at the University of Washington, Trevor Mitsui hit six home runs -- a feat so rare he averaged nearly 86 at-bats for every time he hit one out of the yard.
But in his first year as a pro, the Missoula first baseman has found his power stroke. Through 57 games, Mitsui hit 11 homers, third most in the Pioneer League.
What's changed? What's different? Mitsui doesn't have a specific answer.
"I just kind of go out and play," the right-handed hitting Mitsui said. "My teammates ask me if I'm going to get three hits or four hits, and I say, 'I'm just going to go out and hit the ball hard and have quality at-bats.' And if the ball goes over the fence, then it goes over the fence."
Entering Wednesday, which marked the start of a crucial four-game series with North Division-leading Billings, Mitsui was hitting .333 with 44 RBIs, the second-highest total in the league.
Gaudy numbers to be sure. The Arizona Diamondbacks picked Mitsui in the 30th round of the 2014 Draft and assigned him to Missoula. They have to love the early returns as he's in the mix for the league MVP award.
Mitsui could have signed with Tampa Bay when he was drafted out of high school in the 11th round in 2011, but he thought better of it. "I needed to go to college and grow up a little bit," he said.
Of his adjustment to the professional level three summers later, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mitsui said it's about "being in a more relaxed environment. I just kind of figure things out for myself and figure out what feels comfortable.
"I feel like I'm the same guy," said Mitsui, who hit for the cycle in just his 27th professional game July 17. "I guess I could say that I'm fortunate that my transition into pro ball has been successful so far. I just have to keep working hard and make the most of every opportunity I get."
Of late, Mitsui has found himself stuck in a home run drought. The long balls came early and often this season, but he hasn't hit one in an 19-game stretch, which has spanned the month of August so far. The positive spin is that his batting average is actually 16 points higher than it was on the day he last homered, July 29.
"I was actually talking to [Osprey hitting coach] Vince [Harrison] about this the other day," Mitsui said. "The whole thing is a process, trying to figure out my swing -- things that work, things that don't -- figuring out pitchers. … I'm just trying to hit the ball hard on a line. [Pitchers'] mistakes are the ones that go over the fence."
Missoula entered its series with Billings trailing the Mustangs by two games. A playoff berth is staring each team in the face as the season starts to wind down.
"We're two games back and I think we play them eight more times," Mitsui said. "This is the time of year where you've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you get. We just need to come out here and play our best baseball."
Filling the void: Fran Whitten could be the perfect fit for Orem's puzzle. The playoff-bound Owlz have eroded in recent weeks by the promotions of stars like third baseman Zach Houchins and outfielder Bo Way. But Whitten, a first baseman who joined the club on July 29, has hit .329 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 19 games. Whitten is the most recent winner of the league's Player of the Week award.
Staying put: The Milwaukee Brewers extended their affiliation with Helena last week when the two clubs agreed to a four-year player-development contract. The Brewers have been affiliated with Helena since 2003, and the partnership was also active from 1983-2000. Helena has won three league championships while partnered with the Brewers.
Chasing 20: Ogden first baseman Justin Chigbogu hit two more home runs in a 7-1 win at Helena on Monday. It was his second multi-homer game of the season and gave him the league lead with 16 home runs. Chigbogu is four shy of becoming the first player in the Pioneer League to reach the 20-homer plateau -- the last was Billings' Brandon Waring, who hit 20 in 2007.