Image credit: Arizona State Sun Devils infielder Spencer Torkelson (20) celebrates a home run with Arizona State Sun Devils ph Hunter Jump (39) and Arizona State Sun Devils infielder Drew Swift (6) during a college baseball game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats on May 19, 2018, at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, AZ. (Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CARY, N.C. — The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team features a roster full of the best players college baseball has to offer. And Tuesday night, this collection of high-end talent had its first opportunity to showcase its ability against USA Baseball’s 18U Trials team.
Despite losing, 3-2, some of the Collegiate National Team’s best players showed flashes of why this team could be successful, including Arizona State freshman Spencer Torkelson, who is one of the most notable players suiting up for the collegiate team this summer. The Pac-12 Conference freshman of the year took college baseball by storm in 2018, leading all Division I hitters with 25 home runs, while also knocking in a team-best 53 RBIs.
In addition to his impressive power numbers, Torkelson posted a .320/.440/.743 slash line while leading Arizona State in both walks (44) and runs scored (59). Torkelson was arguably the best freshman in the country in 2018, despite the fact that he entered college just hoping to earn a spot in the Sun Devils’ starting lineup.
“Honestly, I just wanted to start at first,” Torkelson said. “I wanted to get in the lineup, and then I started hitting well. Then I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to be the best player on the team.’ I definitely kind of moved my goals along and then ended up here, so I don’t want to stop.”
While Torkelson’s break out may have come as a surprise to many, he said that he’s always been able to hit for power. The difference in 2018, he said, was his ability to refine his approach at the plate.
“I’ve always had it in me to hit for power,” Torkelson said. “I guess my home run swing wasn’t as consistent in high school, but I’ve always had the pop. It was a matter of my approach and getting the right pitches to hit and putting my best swing on them.
“I think the main thing was approach. Our hitting coach, Michael Earley, really worked on approach and staying within myself, trusting my hands, not getting too big, and then what (pitches) you’re going to get in what counts.”
Torkelson showed no signs of stopping on Tuesday night. While the freshman standout went 1-for-4 with a single, he made solid contact throughout the game. After flying out to center field in his first at-bat, he hit a single up the middle, recording the first hit of his USA Baseball career. In his next at-bat, Torkelson pulled a ball deep into left field, but the ball died at the warning track, barely falling short of a home run. Torkelson finished his night on a disappointing note, however, by striking out looking.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” Torkelson said, when asked about playing for USA Baseball. “You always dream of it, but you never want it to happen. I don’t know. It’s tough to explain because I’m just so honored and so happy to be on this team and have the year that I had. And I just don’t want to stop here — keep going.”
While fulfilling his childhood dream of playing for the USA national team, Torkelson has set another goal — win.
“We want to win,” Torkelson said. “Winning’s everything. We want to represent the United States well and show everyone that we can really play the role in college.”