Having hit .336 with 18 doubles and 50 RBIs in 69 games with the University of Mississippi earlier this year, Class A Short Season Eugene outfielder Auston Bousfield knew he was better than his .222 batting average showed through the first 19 games of his first professional season.
Now, having turned his season around to the tune of 43 hits in 132 at-bats (.326) and a Northwest League Player of the Week award, it turns out that the 2014 fifth-round Draft pick was spot on.
"I knew I wasn't a sub-.200 hitter when I got here," Bousfield said. "I knew I would come around eventually. There wasn't anything wrong with my swing, I just wasn't squaring the ball up enough and was trying to do too much. Once I settled down and relaxed I felt more comfortable in the batter's box and things started happening for me the way I saw them happening."
Fresh off his second College World Series appearance in as many years with Ole Miss, Bousfield struggled mightily to find his swing at the professional level. He started out the season by going 2-for-20 and struck out five times during those first six games.
Those struggles escalated for the Florida native, who saw his average drop to as low as .220 with just four extra-base hits and two RBIs in 59 at-bats.
"I think it was just getting my feet wet with professional baseball," Bousfield said. "After the college season, I took about a week off. I just felt like I was speeding the game up a little bit and trying to do too much when I first got to Eugene."
Luckily in the game of baseball, it takes just one game to get a hitter back on track. For Bousfield, that moment came on July 29 against Salem-Keizer.
Stepping up to the plate in the third inning against 2013 Northwest League All-Star pitcher Drew Leenhouts, Bousfield knocked an RBI double to center field. He hit a leadoff triple to right field in the fifth and connected on another double in the seventh inning of Eugene's 8-6 win over Salem-Keizer.
When all was said and done on that Tuesday night, Bousfield went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and four runs scored.
"I'd been struggling at that point and the biggest part of it was confidence," Bousfield said. "I got a couple of hits and kind of locked back in and realized that I was ready to go from that point on. I think that was the turning point of the season for me."
That one game proved to be the answer in getting Bousfield back on track. In the 16 games that followed, Bousfield raised his average by 76 points, going 26-for-68 (.382) to bump his season average up to .326 through Aug. 19.
Bousfield was particularly hot from July 29 through Aug. 3, when he collected nine extra-base hits, including his first two professional home runs. For his efforts, the Padres prospect was named the Northwest League Offensive Player of the Week.
"It was awesome. It wasn't really something that I expected. I didn't know I put those numbers up during the week until I saw the award," Bousfield said. "I thought I had a good week, but I didn't think it was quite that good so it was pretty special to see."
Ironically enough, it may have been his presence out of the lineup during his struggles that has led to his recent dominance in it.
"When I wasn't hitting, I wasn't playing as much," Bousfield said. "I had a lot of time to sit on the bench and watch other guys and learn what some of the more successful hitters do on a daily basis. That really helped me develop to grow as a player and a hitter."
As Bousfield leads the Emeralds with a .390 average in the month of August, people on his team -- and others throughout the league -- are surely taking notice.
"I just wanted to come in here during my first year and have good at-bats and see what professional baseball was all about," Bousfield said. "I couldn't be happier with the results that I've had up to this point, and hopefully I can keep it going for these next two weeks and finish up the season strong."
You can't forget Forjet: He may have started the season in the back end of Salem-Keizer's starting rotation, but Jason Forjet is showing the Northwest League his true form. Earning his seventh victory of the season on Aug. 20 against Tri-City, Forjet became the league leader in wins and strikeouts (78). On the season, Forjet has recorded a 7-1 record with an impressive 3.21 ERA, which ranks fifth in the NWL. Forjet has notched a 78/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, having struck out 52 hitters in his past seven starts. Furthermore, Forjet has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his 13 starts.
Dilone destroys: There were plenty of fireworks in Tri-City's 21-12 rout of the Spokane on Aug. 18, and Miguel Dilone was a big reason why. The 2011 non-drafted free agent signee went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a career-high eight RBIs this past Monday night. He also scored four runs and walked once in the victory. Dilone entered that game having notched just one home run and 14 RBIs through his previous 30 games.
McBroom booming: Taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the in the 15th round of this year's Draft, first baseman Ryan McBroom is having a standout season with the Vancouver Canadians. In 59 games, McBroom is batting .312 (73-for-234) with 20 doubles, nine home runs and 49 RBIs. He is tied atop the league with nine homers and ranks second in RBIs (49), hits (73) and doubles (20). The Virginia native also ranks third in slugging percentage (.513) and extra-base hits (29).