Tyler Rahmatulla spent the weekend hitting beach balls at Burlington’s Community Field.
At least it seemed that way.
The Quad-Cities infielder clubbed hits in nine straight plate appearances during a three-game series against the Bees that ended Monday, penciling his name into the Midwest League record book with a six-hit game Sunday and flirting with more history during a power surge by the Cardinals’ 34th-round selection in the 2011 draft.
“I came into the series in a bit of a slump, so I went back to the basics, trusted my plan, and things seem to be working out,” Rahmatulla said. “I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well the last few games.”
The Bees won’t dispute that.
Rahmatulla became an impossible out for Burlington, starting with an eighth-inning triple in Saturday’s game against the Bees that was followed by Sunday’s 6-for-6 outing that included two homers and two doubles as he collected seven RBIs.
The effort matched a league record for hits in a game that is shared by many but had not been equaled since 2003 before Lansing’s Kevin Pillar had a six-hit game May 12.
When Rahmatulla returned to the batter’s box Monday, he singled and belted a three-run homer in his first two at-bats before grounding out in the fourth inning, sending a cheer through the crowd.
The nine straight hits left Rahmatulla, a .331 hitter for Quad-Cities, one shy of the league record for consecutive hits of 10 which Rene Lopez of Fort Wayne established in 1993 by following a four-hit game with a six-hit performance.
Rahmatulla’s streak may have ended in the fourth inning Monday, but his hitting didn’t.
He doubled in his next at-bat before completing a 3-for-6 performance.
“It was a pretty impressive performance,” River Bandits hitting coach Joe Kruzel said. “Nine straight hits, that’s tough to do in T-ball.”
Rahmatulla batted 11-for-16 during the three-game series against the Bees, an effort that came as he works with Kruzel to develop more consistency in his game.
“I stuck with my plan in every game of the series. I put myself in a position to hit early, gave myself a chance to see the pitches and I was able to make contact with some baseballs that I could drive,” Rahmatulla said.
At the end of the day, a lot of it boils down to trust.
“You have to believe in what you’re doing,” Rahmatulla said. “I have to trust the plan, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to a hit in one at-bat. Trust the plan, stay with it, and things will work out over time.”
Recently, Kruzel has encouraged Rahmatulla to get into his hitting position early as he settles into the batter’s box, providing him with that extra split second to get a good look at pitches as they are delivered.
“He’s worked at getting into a more consistent position and getting ready to hit a little sooner, which is allowing him to stay through the ball a little more as he swings, and that has helped him,” Kruzel said. “Nearly every one of those nine straight hits, he was making good, solid contact. He didn’t get cheated up there.”
Rahmatulla has ranked among the River Bandits’ most productive offensive players throughout the first half of the season, but two stints on the disabled list prevented him from having enough at-bats to qualify for a spot among league leaders until last week.
A thumb injury put him on the disabled list for 11 days at the end of April, but on May 7 he found himself sidelined for another week after being struck in the helmet by a fastball during a game against Peoria.
In his addition to his league-leading batting average, Rahmatulla is second among Quad-Cities players with seven homers and 40 RBIs and is third on the team with 16 doubles.
“Sometimes you see guys come off the DL and it is tough for them to get going again, but that hasn’t been him,” Kruzel said. “He’s been pretty consistent all season.”
Rahmatulla has worked to make that happen.
“I’ve tried not to let any setbacks I’ve had get to me,” Rahmatulla said. “I’ve come off the DL twice now, and both times I’ve tried to get back on top of things as quick as I can and regain the consistency that I try to have every day.”
The Rahmatulla file
Position: Third base
Hometown: Irvine, Calif.
Birthdate: Feb. 26, 1990
Obtained: 34th round, 2011 draft
By the numbers: Hit .314 for short-season Johnson City while ranking third in the league with 36 extra-base hits in 2011. … Batting .331 for Quad-Cities, and is third on the team with 25 extra-base hits.
FYI: Set an Appalachian League record with 27 doubles last season, earning a spot on the league all-star team