Neither Southern Mississippi's quality pitching staff nor three straight days of temperatures in the 40s could slow down Troy's Danny Collins this weekend. Not even a rainout could slow him down on Tuesday. Collins, a junior right fielder, is one of college baseball's most dangerous hitters—and one of its hottest, too.
In three games against Southern Miss—whose pitching staff entered the weekend with a 1.25 staff ERA—Collins went 7-for-11 with four runs scored, a double, two home runs and five RBIs, leading the Trojans to a big series win. It was the continuation of a season-long hot streak for Collins, who is now hitting .526/.612/1.053 with four homers, four doubles, two triples and 20 RBIs through 38 at-bats. And he's a very disciplined hitter, with just three strikeouts and seven walks so far.
When Troy's game at Samford was postponed yesterday, the Trojans had an intrasquad—and Collins was as merciless against Troy's pitching as he has been against everyone else's.
"This spring he's been right on time, hitting for average and power, driving in runs, doing it all," Troy coach Bobby Pierce said. "Like I told my wife when we got home (Tuesday), 'You should have seen him today.' We played an intrasquad game because we got rained out, and he was about 5-for-6 with a couple of homers. The guy can really hit—all types of pitching, velocity, breaking balls."
Pierce said he gives Collins an A-plus grade in the areas of vision and hand-eye coordination, helping him stay back in the box and react late to pitches. That enables him to thrive in Troy's offensive system.
"We've got a little leg lift that most college hitters do not utilize—you see it a lot in the big leagues," Pierce said. "If you're going to lift your leg up, you've got to have great timing and vision. Most college hitters don't even attempt it."
Collins originally signed with Alabama, redshirted in 2010 and then spent his 2011 at Northwest Florida State JC, where he hit .419 with 11 home runs. The When he arrived at Troy in the fall of 2011, the coaching staff worked with him on fine-tuning his setup and his load. Pierce said Collins wasn't controlling the strike zone as much as he needed to when he got to Troy, but he learned to control his momentum and "get his right elbow into that power slot consistently" over the course of the season, and he wound up hitting .318/.388/.562 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs.
"He had a pretty good year numbers-wise, but you could really see the offensive player he was going to be," Pierce said. "Then he went to the New England (Collegiate Baseball) League and rewrote the record book. It was a big summer—I mean, a big summer."
Livelier balls resulted in offensive explosions all around summer college baseball, but nobody had a louder summer than Collins. He set NECBL records for home runs (19), slugging percentage (.818), extra-base hits (29) and total bases (130), finishing the campaign with a .390 average.
Collins played third base as a sophomore last year, but he developed some arm issues after diving for a ball and landing funny on his right shoulder. The Trojans decided to move him to the outfield this year, and Pierce said he has adequate speed for the position, and some of his arm strength is starting to return. Pierce has been impressed by how natural and athletic he looks at his new position.
But Collins' calling card will always be his fearsome bat.
"I'm 31 years in, and I've had a lot of good guys, but he's one of the best—if not the best—that I've coached," Pierce said. "I don't say that lightly. I truly believe that. It's certainly God-given vision and hand-eye coordination, relaxation and strength coordination, good bat speed, it's hard to beat him with velocity. That's all legit. We've only tried to enhance what he does naturally."