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Collins hoping to take off

Roman Collins spins his helmet on his finger and shares a laugh with Blue Anchors’ bench coach Derrick Pfeffer at first base during Monday night’s game against St. Cloud as the Rox make a pitching change. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The numbers for Alexandria Blue Anchors’ outfielder Roman Collins were simply dominant during his college season this past spring.

The Maple Grove native finished in the top 10 in the nation in almost every statistical category on his way to being named the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Player of the Year while playing at Des Moines Area Community College.

Collins hit .435 and was third in the nation with 91 hits. He led NJCAA Division II with 74 RBIs, had the fifth highest slugging percentage (.756), was sixth in home runs (12), fourth in doubles (25) and led the Bears with 67 runs scored. Those are the kinds of numbers a manager doesn’t take out of the middle of a lineup, even in the midst of a slow start.

“Roman is a very good player who takes pride in what he does each and every day,” Blue Anchors manager Al Newman said after Collins went 3-for-4 with two runs scored on Monday night. “He goes after his workouts in the cages, and he’s prepared to play. I never once thought that because he didn’t get off to a hot start of taking him out of the lineup because guys that can hit will always hit.”

Collins has taken a while to get going for the Blue Anchors as he makes the transition to the wood-bat league. He came into Monday’s 5-3 win over St. Cloud hitting .245 but upped that to a .281 average in 57 at-bats with those three hits.

“I felt really good coming into the summer,” Collins said. “I knew it would be tough to adjust to the wood bats, but I knew I was up to the challenge. The talent level is better [in the Northwoods League], but it’s not so much better that it’s something that would be a problem. It’s just the sweet spot on the wood bats are a lot smaller, so it’s tough to deal with that.”

Newman continued to show faith in Collins by batting him cleanup against the Rox after coming off back-to-back 0-for-4 games. Collins flew out to left field in his first at-bat before squaring up the ball over the rest of the game.

He lined a double to right-center field in the fourth inning that aided a three-run frame for Alexandria. Collins had a hard-hit single in his next at-bat before adding another single for his second three-hit night and fourth multi-hit night in 16 games played.

“It felt really good,” Collins said. “I went on a little skid over the road trip where we were playing bad, so it feels really good being back hitting it. I’ve been hitting in the middle of the lineup, so I know the offense is really depending on me. When I hit well, we do well and when I don’t hit well, we don’t do well.”

Five of Collins’ 16 hits through Monday had gone for extra bases this summer. The power that players display on their college teams is often one of the last things to translate to the wood bats in the NWL.

Collins said he is still in the adjustment phase and felt like he would continue to hit for more power as the summer moves on. That’s what this team is banking on as Alexandria tries to gain some momentum toward the second half of the season after getting off to a slow start.

If the Blue Anchors’ offense takes off, Collins will likely be a big part of that. Monday’s game was a good start as he helped his team snap a nine-game losing streak.

“Today was what I thought I was going to get,” Newman said. “He has hit the ball hard. His average may not show it, but he’s been a very good player. He’s deserving of the National Junior College Player of the Year and hopefully today will be the start of an excellent summer season before he leaves to go to the junior college all-star team.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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