Expected to Start as a True Freshman

The first time I talked to Mississippi State freshman third baseman Connor Powers was last year during his recruitment by Mississippi State. Even then he had a confidence about him. And it's carried over to his first few months at MSU, enough that it's helped him land a starting nod at third base from head man Ron Polk.

Connor Powers

"I'm excited. (Coach Polk) said I was going to start, but who knows what will happen. But I'm excited knowing I'll be with the team, travel with them and maybe get some at-bats this year," said Connor, who prepped at Benet Academy in Naperville, Illinois.

Sophomore pitcher Aaron Weatherford could see it coming after watching Connor play.

"We knew when Connor walked out here that he was a good athlete, but he has definitely stepped it up and proved to us that he can hit," said Aaron. "When he comes to the plate, he's one of those guys that you have to bear down a little bit more. You can't miss a spot because he will definitely make you pay for it with the bat. He's going to help us out a lot (this year)."

Although he's known for his hitting, it's also Connor's personality that's helped him cope with the move from high school ball to college ball.

"I think what helps me out the most is I'm laid back. I'm competitive, but I don't press," said Connor, who was selected the Prep Baseball Report's 2006 Illinois Player of the Year. "If I make an error or strikeout I don't freak out. At the time I may get a little frustrated, but maybe a minute later I'm fine."

That laid back attitude was also a big help as he learned the difference between high school and college pitchers.

"How good the pitchers are has been the biggest adjustments," noted Connor, a 2006 Louisville Slugger Honorable Mention High School All-American. "They spot up their pitches really well as opposed to high school. In high school you might run into a pitcher who runs it up to 92 to 93 and he'll just throw it right down the middle of the plate sometimes. But here, they'll throw it on the black (part of the plate). And (in college) they have a good backup pitch, a good slider, a good changeup."

While his personality has been a big help, Connor also feels another part of his game has allowed him to handle the adjustment.

"I think a big part of hitting besides the mechanics is getting a good pitch to hit. And I think I have a pretty good idea what the strike zone is," explained Connor, who bats and throws from the right side. "I think that's one of my strengths."

That and his power-hitting. Although he credits his power to his approach at the plate.

"I try to hit line drives, but if the pitcher elevates the ball I'm going to have more of a tendency to get more lift on it," said Connor, who knocked 16 pitches out of the park his senior season of high school ball.

While Connor has confidence in his hitting ability, he also appears to be comfortable playing third base, a position he has played off and on the past couple of years.

"I've played first base the last year and a half of high school, but I feel confident playing third because I played it in the summer with my traveling team," said the 6-2, 217-pounder. "I have enough arm. Plus, this field plays really, really well. It's really fast and you don't get many bad hops."

Speaking of the MSU baseball field, Connor gets his first chance to play in front of a big Bulldog crowd next Friday. And he couldn't be happier or more excited.

"(The veterans) have pointed out to me that it's a humbling experience your first ball game here playing in front of all the fans," said Connor. "But I'm excited because it's going to be cool. But at the same time, you don't focus on the fans. You just don't listen. It's like the movie For the Love of the Game. Kevin Costner is pitching and he's got the ball and there's all the crowd noise going on. When he gets to the set (position) everything blurs and he gets into a zone."

And there are a lot of MSU fans that hope this talented youngster gets into a zone early in the season and helps his team to national rankings and postseason play.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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