Is it the number, 20? Or the position, first base? The conference, Pac-12? Could be.
The similarities between local baseball phenoms Spencer Torkelson and Andrew Vaughn are striking. Both are recently out of high school and both are shining at the upper echelons of Division I college baseball.
Barely removed from a stellar career at Casa Grande High, freshman Spencer Torkelson is tearing it up for Arizona State. He was named Pac-12 player of the week March 6 after going 8-for-16, hitting .500 including three homers, and scoring six runs in the Sun Devils’ series with Oklahoma State and Long Beach State.
A week later it was Maria Carrillo grad Andrew Vaughn’s turn — again. Vaughn, in his sophomore season at Cal, was named Pac-12 player of the week when he helped the Bears sweep Brown. Vaughn, the Pac-12 freshman of the year last year, went 5-for-13 with two homers, a double and six RBIs. His on-base percentage was .579 percent.
It’s the second time Vaughn has won the award and it’s the kind of play that has put him on the 55-player watchlist for the 2018 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, given to the best player in college baseball.
Not bad for a couple of guys who played against each other in high school and are now playing in a conference that includes No. 1 Oregon State, No. 3 Stanford and No. 13 UCLA.
“I think it’s the area code — 707,” Torkelson said, acknowledging a healthy crop of current college baseball players who got their prep starts in Sonoma County.
Torkelson and Vaughn know each other but never played together. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t spend time on the diamond together.
“I think it helps that we played each other growing up,” Vaughn said, and by “we,” he means more than just he and Torkelson.
There is a group of recent area grads who are shining on the big baseball stage: Alec Rennard played at Maria Carrillo and Santa Rosa Junior College and is now a standout pitcher at Michigan with an early 1-2 record and 3.38 ERA. Another Carrillo guy, Clayton Andrews, is a junior at Long Beach State, where he’s hitting .250 and has started all 21 games on the season.
Garrett Hill, an Analy and SRJC grad, is a junior at San Diego State, where he is 4-0 with a .95 ERA in 28 innings. Fellow Bear Cub Jared Noonan, a Montgomery grad, is 1-0 in his junior season at UC Riverside with a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings.
Rancho Cotate and SRJC grad Ryan Haug is hitting .250 in his senior season at the University of Arizona. And Casey Longacre, another Casa Grande guy, left Sacramento State after playing two seasons of football and made his baseball debut March 11 for the Washington Huskies.
“It’s just kind of a freak thing,” said longtime Casa Grande baseball coach Paul Maytorena.
Maytorena, who retired following last season after more than two decades, said the success of this crop of players is amazing. And for Torkelson and Vaughn to shine on such a big stage so early in their careers is phenomenal.
“It’s neat for the area,” he said. “Just the jump for those guys to make, from Sonoma County to playing the best teams in the country, it’s crazy.”
NCAA DIVISION I LEADERS
(Through Wednesday’s games)
1. Sean Sullivan, Dartmouth, .540
2. Greg Cullen, Niagara, .510
3. Cesar Trejo, UNC-Greensboro, .507
4. Gage Canning, Arizona State, .494
5. Andrew Vaughn, Cal, .469
6. A.J. Priaulx, Presbyterian, .466
7. Logan Driscoll, George Mason, .465
8. Rylan Thomas, Central Florida, .452
9. Adam Frank, Fair-Dickinson, .450
Drew Mendoza, Florida State, .450
1. Andrew Vaughn, Cal 11
Brett Kinneman, N.C. State, 11
Albee Weiss, CSU Northridge, 11
4. Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State, 10
Luke Heyer, Kentucky, 10
6. T.J. Collett, Kentucky, 9
Kole Cottam, Kentucky, 9
Will Dalton, Florida, 9
Keegan McGovern, Georgia, 9
Chandler Taylor, Alabama, 9
Kendall Woodall, Coastal Carolina, 9