CLEARWATER, Fla.—Northwestern battled back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Connecticut 6-5 in 10 innings Friday in one of the early games at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, but there was no question the best player on the field was UConn sophomore center fielder George Springer.
Physical and athletic, Springer is very aggressive in every facet of the game. He takes a big rip at the plate, and in the fifth inning he tomahawked a two-run double down the left-field line, then took third when the relay throw from the outfield was received by the third baseman about 10 feet from the bag. It looked like Springer was going to be out for sure on the play, but his speed and aggressiveness took the Wildcats off guard, and the third baseman flipped the ball over the covering shortstop's head—so Springer raced home.
In the seventh, with runners on the corners, Springer showed impressive plate discipline, batting back from an 0-and-2 count to work the count full, then lining a game-tying sacrifice fly to center.
In the ninth, he again worked the count full and drew a two-out walk. A wild pitch squirted a few feet in front and to the left of the catcher, so Springer did not hesitate to break for second—barely beating the throw (though he would be stranded on second).
"I just play hard, and whatever happens, happens," Springer said. "I just put my head down and run."
Springer's instincts and hard-nosed mentality, coupled with his exciting all-around tools package, could make him a first- or second-round pick in 2011.
Another note from this game: as might be expected from a game between two Northern teams in February, it was sloppy. I counted four routine pop-ups and a fly ball that were dropped or simply missed, and there were seven errors.
"It's our first time since October in the sun, so it's not the best start, but it is what it is," Springer said. "You look up at the sky and it's bright blue, and it's not like an all-brown house."
Next up: Indiana against West Virginia. There a number of scouting directors and crosscheckers on hand to see WVU's Jedd Gyorko. I'll have a report on him later.
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