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Baseball: Move to center has suited Riverhead sophomore well

Riverhead baseball player Tom Powers 050416

Some baseball players might grumble about being asked to change positions. Not Tom Powers. Then again, why should he? A position change may have turned his season around.

Powers, a Riverhead High School sophomore who was brought up to the varsity team for the playoffs last year, started this season at shortstop. He played about a half-dozen games at shortstop and it wasn’t going well. What was worse was that he was bringing his fielding troubles with him into the batter’s box.

“I would keep a mistake with me,” he said. “I just had to let it go.”

Then senior center fielder Joe Cunningham made the suggestion that he and Powers trade positions. Powers was receptive, and they did. The results were immediate for Powers, who looked like a different player, offensively and defensively.

Sophomore second baseman Chris Jehle witnessed the transformation. “He just changed totally,” Jehle said, adding, “He needed that confidence to move to center.”

Coach Rob Maccone remembers Powers’ first game in center field. A ball was hit toward the gap, but Powers raced over and caught it.

“Then you saw a smile on his face,” Maccone said. “The hitting hasn’t stopped and the defense hasn’t stopped. He’s done a great job for us.”

Through Tuesday, Powers had a .372 batting average with a .391 on-base percentage, eight runs batted in, seven runs scored and a stolen base.

“I just got more calm and that translates to the plate,” Powers said. “I started hitting better.”

Powers said the keys for him have been staying ahead in the count, looking for fastballs and making contact.

“He’s done a terrific job for us,” Maccone said. “We couldn’t be more proud of what he’s done. In the beginning when he was struggling defensively, he definitely could have like crawled in a hole, but he kept fighting, he kept working hard.”

Powers’ development has been one of the good things to come out of a trying season for the Blue Waves. He said his confidence is high and he is pleased with how he’s playing.

As for center field, no complaints have been heard.

“I think he likes it,” Jehle said. “He’s getting comfortable.”

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Photo caption: Tom Powers has found his comfort zone, playing center field for Riverhead. (Credit: Garret Meade)