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Casa infielders Torkelson, Smith choose colleges

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The left side of the Casa Grande High School infield has officially signed to play Division 1 college baseball.

Third baseman Spencer Torkelson and shortstop Hance Smith made it official in a signing ceremony last week. With family, coaches and friends watching, Torkelson signed a Letter of Intent to play for Arizona State University and Smith signed with the University of the Pacific.

Casa Grande baseball coach Paul Maytorena said it was no accident the teammates were going to get a chance to continue their baseball careers.

“It is great to see the fruits of hard work,” he said. “Everyone sees the games, but this is a result of how hard they work in practice when on one is looking. It is a great honor to coach these players.

“I know they are going to be successful both on the field and outside the field.”

Four-year starter

Torkelson will be a four-year varsity starter for the Gauchos as a senior this season. He was the North Bay League’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore and an all-league selection last year when he hit .442 with 34 hits in 27 games. He slugged eight doubles and two home runs, drove in 25 runs, scored 26 and played a standout third base.

For Torkelson, his move to Arizona State marks another progression in what has been a steady advancement in an already long baseball career.

“I’ve been working my whole life to go to the next level and this is the biggest step yet,” he explained.

A gifted all-around athlete, he said he began thinking seriously about college and possibly beyond when he entered Casa Grande.

“When I made the varsity as a freshman and started to succeed as a 14-year-old, I think it gave me the confidence to believe I could succeed at the next level,” he explained.

Torkelson said it was Barry Bonds that first got him interested in Arizona State. Before making a call to tell the ASU coaches he was interested in their school, he checked the university on the internet. When he discovered that Bonds and several other Major Leaguers had played there, he became instantly interested.

A visit to the campus pretty much sealed the deal for him.

“The campus is nice and they have the most beautiful baseball facilities I’ve seen,” he explained. “The coaching staff seemed really down to earth. They weren’t fake. They were real.”

Torkelson is headed to Arizona State with every intention of playing as a freshman. “I trust my abilities,” he said. “If I work hard and improve myself, I can play.”

He committed as a third baseman, but is not locked into any position. “I’ll play anywhere,” he said. “I just want to play.”

Torkelson isn’t certain what he will study, but it will have “something to do with business.”

He also knows he will have help. “They have a lot of support for the athletes,” he explained. “There is a tutor for every athlete.”

Torkelson is the son of his biggest fans and supporters, his mother and father, Rick and Lori Torkelson.

First choice

For Smith, there was little doubt where he would continue his baseball and classroom education.

“It (UOP) was the first school to offer me a scholarship,” he said. “Once I visited the campus, I knew it was the place I wanted to be. The baseball facilities and locker room are great.

“They have new coaches, and they are all from good baseball programs. They gave me the impression they really care about me.”

Smith has been playing baseball from the time he was able to hold a bat, and has already accomplished much.

He has played on several travel-ball teams and was a shortstop and a key player on the Petaluma National Little League All-Star team that finished third in the Little League World Series in 2012.

Last spring, in his first year of varsity baseball, he was an all-league section, playing outstanding defense while batting .352 with 31 hits in 27 games. He hit five doubles and a home run, drove in 16 runs and scored 24.

Smith isn’t sure what he will major in at UOP. He is considering either engineering or economics. One thing he is sure of — he will get a good education. “UOP is one of the top 10 academic schools in California,” he explained.

Smith said the UOP coaches told him we would be able to compete for a position as a freshman. He hopes it will be at shortstop, the position he has played all his life, but he mostly he wants to play.

“I’ll play anywhere, just so I play,”he said. “It will take a lot of work, but I know I can play.”

Smith is the son of Eric Smith and Becky Headstrom. His father has been his coach for most of his life from youth baseball, through travel ball and as manager of the Little League World Series team. His mother is his biggest fan, cheerleader and support person.

“Without the support of my mom and dad, none of this would have been possible,” he said.