MOOSIC — It was as a simple as a sixth-inning triple dropping in against Buffalo Bisons center fielder Ian Parmely, but that’s what Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders center fielder Dustin Fowler credits for his turnaround at the plate this season.
Fowler owned an .125 batting average heading into the April 16 matchup against Buffalo, and his 2 for 4 performance at the dish got the ball rolling. The 22-year-old has hits in 19 of his last 21 games and just saw his then team-high 12-game hitting streak come to an end Wednesday in Pawtucket.
“It was a windy day and I hit a miss-hit and the wind carried it and it dropped, and I got a triple out of it,” Fowler said of the hit. “Ever since then it was kind of a deep breath where I could say, ‘Alright, I can do this. I’m fine.’ I got a base hit up the middle my next (at-bat) and from then on I just kind of got back into my rhythm — just had confidence again.”
All it took for Fowler was that bloop hit to build his confidence, which was the one thing he was lacking at the plate. With his confidence restored, the outfielder’s swagger has come back while he’s in the batter’s box.
The Cadwell, Ga. native currently has a .291 heading into Saturday’s tilt at Syracuse. His .291 batting average ranks fifth on the team for players with at least 15 at-bats.
Fowler was also named International League Batter of the Week for the week of April 24-30. He went 11 for 26 with seven extra-base hits, four runs scored and 5 RBI.
“At the beginning I had a lot balls that I was hitting hard right at people and I was getting frustrated,” Fowler said. “Now I’m hitting good and they’re falling. It’s always nice getting that one little bloop hit to get things going.
“I don’t know what it was, but for some reason that (hit) was the thing I needed to let me breath and have confidence.”
Fowler said he’s focused on getting out in front of the ball, resulting in balls hit to right and center field. However, when he was struggling, he started letting the ball get “a little too deep” into the zone.
Once he realized that, he’s zeroed in on pulling the ball and getting the barrel to the ball, so he could get back out in front. Shifting his focus, Fowler said was able to get his timing back down.
“Sometimes when you don’t get off to a great start you start to press a little bit. You start trying to chase hits instead of just sticking with the process,” RailRiders hitting coach P.J. Pilittere said. “Obviously, just trusting that you’re a good enough player to belong here. There’s a reason why he’s hitting in second or third for us, because we believe he’s one of our better hitters.”
If you look back at Fowler’s numbers over the season, he’s on pace to have a career year. If he stays on the rate he’s at, Fowler will surpass his career highs in extra-base hits, RBI and a .300-plus batting average isn’t out of reach. He batted .307 in 58 games for Single-A Charleston in 2015.
Fowler had a .303 batting average heading into Monday’s series opener against Pawtucket.
“Coming from last year, I was able to shorten up my swing a lot and stay as short as possible to the ball and just get the barrel to the ball as much as possible,” Fowler said. “I’m starting to hit for a lot more power, so that’s always nice.”