Granite City graduate Chad Spanberger shared first base and designated hitter duties in his freshman season at Arkansas.
When University of Arkansas freshman Chad Spanberger stepped up to the plate with a runner on and no outs in the top of the ninth against the Missouri State Bears in the first game of the NCAA Super Regionals on June 5 at Fayetteville, Ark., he was about to do something he had never done before — be on national television.
“When you’re playing, you really don’t think about it,” the former Granite City High School standout said. “But when everybody’s watching you on national TV, it’s a great feeling.”
Spanberger’s national television debut was a successful one. Spanberger, a left-handed hitter, smacked a single to left field off Missouri State’s Brad Archer for his only hit in NCAA tournament play. It was also his only at-bat in the NCAA tournament.
Spanberger and the Razorbacks cruised to an 18-4 win over Missouri State in the first game, which was televised on ESPN2. They went on to win the Fayetteville Super Regional 2-1 in the best-of-three series to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Arkansas clinched its third CWS berth in seven years and its eighth in program history.
“We have one guy (senior Joe Serrano) who played in it in his freshman year and he said it is the greatest experience in four years of college baseball,” Spanberger said.
Arkansas finished 0-2 in the College World Series, losing to Virginia 5-3 and Miami 4-3. Spanberger didn’t play in either game.
Spanberger’s hit against Missouri State was one of the biggest highlights of his freshman season at Arkansas. He hit .252 with no home runs, 21 RBIs and 27 hits in 42 games played.
Arkansas, which is coached by Dave Van Horn, finished 40-25 for the second straight year. The Razorbacks advanced to Super Regionals by cruising through regional play at Stillwater, Okla., going 3-0, including a win over St. John’s in the championship game.
Spanberger didn’t play any of the three regional games.
Against Missouri State in the first game of the Fayetteville Super Regional, Arkansas was winning 18-3 when Spanberger was batting in the top of the ninth. The Razorbacks came back from a 1-0 deficit to score three runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, six in the sixth, two in the seventh and two in the eighth and finished with their largest offensive output of the season.
After dropping the second game, 3-1, Arkansas bounced back to win the third and deciding game, 3-2, to clinch a berth to Omaha. The Razorbacks scored all of their runs in the top of the first and never looked back.
“In the first inning, we were hyped up and it stayed that way the whole game,” Spanberger said.
Before joining Arkansas, Spanberger was coming off an outstanding high school baseball career at Granite City, earning all-Southwestern Conference honors three times. In his senior year with the Warriors, Spanberger hit .417 with 37 walks, eight doubles, four triples, four home runs and 27 RBIs. Spanberger graduated from Granite City in 2014.
Spanberger played his first games at the collegiate level on Feb. 14, when Arkansas competed against North Dakota in a doubleheader at home. After going 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter in the first game, Spanberger started as designated hitter in the second game and went for 3 for 5 with four RBIs.
Spanberger also had a three-hit game against Texas A&M on April 18. He posted two-hit games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Memphis and Southeast Missouri State.
Spanberger was one of 12 freshmen and the only player from the St. Louis area on the Arkansas roster. He said he’s enjoying his college baseball experience at Arkansas.
“I couldn’t have picked any better place,” Spanberger said. “The coaches and players are great.”