Granite City High graduate Chad Spanberger won’t soon forget the week he enjoyed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Spanberger, a junior first baseman at Arkansas, was 8-for-19 (.421) with three doubles, five home runs and 10 RBIs in five games as the Razorbacks were runners-up to Louisiana State on Thursday through Sunday in Hoover, Alabama.
Spanberger did all his damage in the middle three games. He was 3-for-4 and set single-game Arkansas records with three home runs – in three consecutive at-bats – and seven RBIs in a 12-0 win over Auburn. In the same game, three Razorbacks pitchers combined for a seven-inning no-hitter. It was the first no-hitter in the history of Arkansas baseball.
Spanberger then went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two walks in a 9-2 win over Mississippi State. He was 3-for-6 with a double, two homers and three RBIs in a 16-0 victory over top-seeded Florida.
“It was pretty cool,” Spanberger said. “I just went down there and wanted to do well, and it turned out pretty good. The ball seemed slower coming at me, my body felt good, my mechanics felt good. You go up there and know you’re going to have a good at-bat. I wish I could do that every at-bat. (But) baseball would be easy then.”
Spanberger is batting .305 and leads the Razorbacks with 19 homers and 64 RBIs.
Arkansas (42-17) qualified for the NCAA Tournament and will host a regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Other teams in the regional are Oral Roberts (42-14), Missouri State (40-17) and Oklahoma State (30-25). Arkansas opens with a game against Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. Friday.
Spanberger said he had never hit three homers in a game – at any level. At Granite City, he batted .340 with no homers and 19 RBIs as a freshman, .314 with three homers and 27 RBIs as a sophomore, .398 with five homers and 27 RBIs as a junior, and .417 with four homers and 27 RBIs as a senior.
“My first at-bat, I was just trying to have a good at-bat and it turned out well,” Spanberger said. “My second time, I just tried to get a pitch and maybe do it again, and I did. I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ The third time, I was facing a guy that always throws me curveballs. I was figuring he would do the same thing. He did the same thing and I put a good swing on it. I was happy it went out of the park. It was definitely a highlight.”
Spanberger’s first two homers, in the first and third innings, were on a fastball and a changeup. His final homer came in the fourth. He was intentionally walked in his fourth plate appearance, then hit into a fielder’s choice in his final at-bat.
Spanberger moved from to first base from the outfield this season. He is adjusting to the nuances of the change and is pleased with his progress.
“The balls a righty hits (to first) have funky spins,” he said. “When a righty hits it, it’s never like a true bounce. I would say that’s the hardest part about it. But it’s more than fielding the ball. You have bunt coverages, first-and-third defense, there’s a bunch of stuff.”
Spanberger said he expects to be selected in the amateur draft June 12 and said he will leave Arkansas if he he chosen in the first five or 10 rounds. If he is taken later, and the money isn’t acceptable, he will return to Arkansas for his senior season.
Another metro-east player, Waterloo High graduate Jordan McFarland, also plays for the Razorbacks. McFarland, a freshman, has played in 29 games and is batting .271 with two homers and 10 RBIs. He made two appearances in the SEC Tournament.
McFarland was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 36th round of the amateur draft last June. Instead of signing, however, McFarland decided to honor the commitment he made to Arkansas after his sophomore season at Gibault High.