Spencer Torkelson sets new Pac-12 freshman home run record

The Sun Devils' slugger made history in the fifth inning of a 4-3 win

ASU baseball freshman phenomenon Spencer Torkelson set the new Pac-12 single-season record for home runs hit by a freshman with his 22nd dinger of the season against Washington.

Gonzaga's Jeff Hainline set the original mark of 21 in 1984. USC's Jeff Clement matched Hainline in 2003.

The Sun Devils' primary first baseman led off the fifth inning and blasted a 3-2 pitch from the Huskies' freshman left-hander Lucas Knowles, tying the score at two runs apiece. ASU went on to win 4-3 on a walk-off hit by junior center fielder Gage Canning.

“They threw me a lot of fastballs,” Torkelson said. “(In the) first inning, the guy threw me a changeup and I just missed it, and I think they knew I was on it. So they were probably going to try and beat me with fastballs middle-away.”

The Huskies had four players in the outfield during his record-breaking at-bat.

 “I thought it was silly,” Torkelson said. “Home runs beat the shift too. I definitely had that middle-away approach because if they are going to give me that, it is a free hit.”

Torkelson said he was not initially aware of breaking the record until hitting coach Michael Earley congratulated him.

Torkelson hit his 21st home run in the ninth inning during the April 27 game at Oregon State, breaking up OSU senior left-hander Luke Heimlich's shutout.

Former major league first and third baseman Troy Glaus set the overall Pac-12 record for home runs in a single season (34) as a junior at UCLA in 1997, but only 37 other freshman have hit 20 home runs.

Torkelson is also chasing the ASU record for home runs in a single season. That record currently belongs to Mitch Jones who hit 27 bombs as a senior in 2000. Additionally, Torkelson will attempt to break Todd Greene's NCAA single-season freshman home run record. Greene hit 26 dingers for Georgia Southern University in 1990.

It only took Torkelson 25 games to surpass Barry Bonds' ASU freshman home run record of 11 set in 1983. The primary first baseman hit his 12th long ball of the season against Washington State on March 29, a game the Sun Devils ultimately lost 8-7 in 10-innings.

Torkelson currently leads the nation overall in home runs. No freshman has ever led the nation in home runs at the end of a season, according to NCAA records dating back to 1965.

ASU head coach Tracy Smith said he has been around the game for a long time and has seen plenty of good players, but said Torkelson is special.

“You’re witnessing something you’re not going to see everyday," Smith said.

Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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