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CHATHAM — When Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) left Chatham to report to Team USA on June 25, he told Anglers manager Tom Holliday that he would return to Cape on July 17, two days after the Team USA season ended.
While Wareham’s Andrew Vaughn (California) and Bryant Packard (East Carolina) did not return to the Cape after their stint with Team USA season was complete, Torkelson did. And he returned on July 16 — a day earlier than he anticipated.
“He goes to Team USA and a lot of guys shut it down after that,” Anglers manager Tom Holliday said. “He said, ‘Coach, I'll be back the day after I get back to the United States.’ He was here, and right back to work at the game.”
Wednesday’s game was why Torkelson came back.
In front of over 4,406 excited fans at Veterans Field — the largest crowd of any Cape League game this season — Torkelson put on an electrifying display in Chatham’s 11-3 win over Brewster in Game 1 of the East Division Championship Series.
In the second inning, Torkelson walked up to the plate with two runners on base, two outs and a 2-0 Chatham lead. By the time his at-bat finished, the score was 5-0.
Torkelson worked a 3-1 count and then drove a pitch deep into left-center. Brewster center fielder — and Torkelson’s college teammate — Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) and left fielder Dominic Canzone (Ohio State) started running towards the wall, but no ballplayer would have been able to corral Torkelson’s shot.
The baseball landed in the woods beyond left field for Torkelson’s first home run of the playoffs. Even though the ball landed well beyond the fence, Torkelson said the ball “wasn't as far as I would like.”
When Torkelson stepped into the batter’s box three innings later, he did so with no runners on base and one out. The result was still the same.
Torkelson crushed another pitch from Reid Detmers (Louisville) over the wall in left field, bouncing just to the left of the Veterans Field scoreboard.
“Right after I hit my second one I was like ‘Oh that's pretty cool, I just hit two bombs,’” Torkelson said. “After I hit my first one, I was in the outfield thinking to myself ‘It’s been a while since I hit two bombs in one game.’”
Coming into the playoffs, Torkelson was riding a slump. He was 5-for-29 during the final nine games of the regular season with only one home run — a first-inning shot against the Orleans Firebirds on the last day of the regular season.
But Torkelson has returned to his true form in the playoffs. In Game 1 of the EDS against Harwich, the California native drew three walks and scored a run. In Game 2, he roped two hits, drew a walk and scored two runs.
“I was struggling for a little bit,” Torkelson said. “I was trying too hard. I was trying to be great when I just had to calm it down and relax and simplify things.”
Including Torkelson’s spring season at Arizona State and campaign with Team USA, the right-handed slugger has blasted 34 home runs on the season, nine of which have come on the Cape.
Earlier in the season Holliday called Torkelson “Robin Ventura reincarnated.” Ventura — who played at Oklahoma State in the 1980s when Holliday was an assistant coach — hit .428 with 68 home runs, 71 doubles, 329 runs scored and 301 RBIs in his college career.
Holliday said Torkelson was the key in the EDCS Game 1 win over Brewster and that he has shown a desire to become a better ballplayer all summer.
“He’s a special kid who has total respect for the game,” Holliday said. “When you have respect for baseball, it will treat you right. He's going to be a special guy.”