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NCAA DIVISION I LEADERS

(Through Wednesday’s games)

Batting average

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

Home runs

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

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.”

Torkelson’s rise is eerily similar to Vaughn’s. In the fall, Torkelson was moved to first base — the same adjustment Vaughn made his freshman year.

They also both hammer the heck out of the ball.

Vaughn is tied for first in the nation for homers with 11, and Torkelson is tied for second at 10. Torkelson’s tally puts him just one dinger behind Barry Bonds for ASU’s freshman homer record.

Vaughn leads the Golden Bears in nearly every offensive category: batting average (.469m which puts him fifth in the nation), walks (18), slugging percentage (1.063), runs scored (29), hits (30), home runs (11, tied for first in the nation), and total bases (68). For good measure, he also gets hit by pitches more than any other Bear.

The Bears (12-7 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12) open their series with Oregon Friday.

Heading into their series with UCLA, Torkelson leads the Sun Devils (11-10 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12) in homers and RBIs (22), second in total bases (60), doubles (6), slugging percentage (.741) and runs scored (18). He’s got the fifth-best batting average at .296.

“I would tell everybody to enjoy this one because he’s one of those rare hitters that don’t come around very often,” ASU coach Tracy Smith told reporters recently. “To Sun Devils fans, (you’ll) be lucky to see this guy for the next few years.”

While Vaughn talks like a guy settling into his role as team leader and on the shortlist for the Golden Spikes honor, Torkelson sounds like a guy still trying to get a grip on how far he’s come and how fast.

“You have worked hard your whole life, so why wouldn’t it happen?” he said.

The college game is clearly different. No longer can guys simply hide errors by muscling their way past other teams.

“A little play can change a whole ballgame,” he said. “An error, a walk, a run can change a whole series. In high school you can sometimes get away with it and then just hit by teams.”

Coaches at both Cal and ASU describe Vaughn and Torkelson as mature, as students of the game.

For Vaughn, he talks about his increased comfort level this year.

“I’m taking my same mentality to the plate, doing the same thing,” he said. “I think it’s more of a comfort thing. Sometimes I feel more comfortable up there than I did last year. I think, ‘This guy has to throw me a pitch,’ I don’t have to go after it.”

And it’s sinking in that a walk can be as good as a hit.

“I have learned to take my walks and learned to be more picky,” he said. “I love to hit, I love to swing. I guess I have matured. Walks are good; you get on base for the guy behind me.”

For Torkelson, being a student of the game means answering test questions in the middle of the contests. If a pitcher gets him out in his first two at-bats, something has to change, he said.

“I want to make that adjustment before my third at-bat or fourth at-bat, instead of waiting for the next day,” he said.

He runs hitting coach Michael Earley ragged.

“Our hitting coach is awesome,” Torkelson said. “Honestly, he took me under his wing and I would always pick his brain — ‘In this situation, what do you think is coming?’ It’s kind of a brain game, learning the game.”

And it’s also a blast.

“Honestly, this team has the best camaraderie I have ever been a part of,” Vaughn said. “I think we can go far.”

Whatever North Bay magic Vaughn and Torkelson brought to their respective teams, neither can quite put a finger on what it is. But both are thankful for their 707 baseball roots right about now.

You can reach columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671, kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and Instagram @kerry.benefield.

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