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Senior centerfielder Alex Powell returns to SJU Baseball lineup


NCAA TENNIS: Carleton at Saint John's (Minn.)

Powell was an All-MIAC first team honoree as a sophomore in 2011. That season, he batted .333 while leading the Johnnies in walks (12) and runs (19). | Photo courtesy of SJU Athletic Media Relations

Even when things didn’t look like they could get much better for the St. John’s baseball team, they did.

To add to a newly renovated field and a group of very strong returning players that are projected to contend for a conference title, the Johnnies return one of the best players in the conference: senior outfielder Alex Powell.

Last season, Powell endured an untimely wrist injury that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. In 2011, as a sophomore, he was named an All-MIAC first team honoree after finishing the season with a .333 average and leading the team in both runs (19) and walks (12).

“Alex was our leadoff guy when we needed a leadoff hitter,” head coach Jerry Haugen said. “He’s an excellent outfielder with a strong arm, and he’s also got some power at the plate.”

But despite his natural abilities, Powell’s return to the starting lineup hasn’t come without some hard work and dedication. The senior has spent an entire year rehabbing his broken wrist.

“I’ve done a lot of little things like small muscle exercises to get ready for the season,” Powell said. “I’ve also had football to get me back into shape.”

Last year, Haugen and his staff found replacements for Powell in the form of sophomore leadoff hitter Aaron Pfaff, who batted .302 in 2012, as well as junior Dylan Graves, who manned the centerfield position and led the Johnnies with six home runs last season.

With Powell’s return, the Johnnies will boast one of the best outfields in the conference.

“With him and Dylan, we have a very good outfield. They both throw very well, and Alex is definitely a plus defensively,” Haugen said.

Powell hopes to reclaim his leadoff spot in the lineup once he recovers from a minor groin injury he sustained early this season. He will have to stay consistent at the top of the lineup if the Johnnies hope to contend for a conference title this spring.

“I need to make sure I get on base a lot this season and be a solid fielder as well,” Powell said. “As a senior, I also need to bring some leadership to the team.”

The Johnnies look forward to Powell’s return as they have struggled to score runs during their few games of the season. They dropped their first two games of the season 2-0 to Division II Concordia-St. Paul. However, the St. John’s pitching staff was strong in both games, holding Concordia to a .213 team batting average as well as finishing the doubleheader with a 1.59 ERA.

Last Friday the Johnnies evened their record at 2-2 after defeating Edgewood College in both games of a doubleheader. The team saw their bats come alive in the first game as they pounded out 14 hits en route to a 10-5 victory. Ryan Spengler provided an impressive pitching performance to secure a victory in game two. The senior pitched six innings and allowed only one run as his team cruised to a 2-1 victory.

The Johnnies will play their third double header of the season against Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 4:30 p.m. March 11 in the Metrodome. Stevens Point will bring a strong team to the Dome as they enter the season ranked No. 25 in the nation.