Senior centerfield Daniel Spingola continues to pay big dividends.
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
The succession of cash-register sounds accompanied by Roger Waters' unforgettable bouncing bass line that opens the Pink Floyd classic "Money" is not only a very cool choice for a walk-up song but also the perfect personification of Georgia Tech's senior centerfielder Daniel Spingola.
"That's kind of just one of the songs I've always liked listening to by Pink Floyd," said the smiling Spingola, following Tuesday night's 4-3 victory over Mercer at Russ Chandler Stadium, in which his seventh-inning, three-run homer snapped a tense 1-1 tie and provided the margin of victory. "I always thought it would be a cool walk-up song and I finally got the chance to use it."
Money pretty well describes Spingola's hitting out of what over the last two years has become his customary leadoff spot.
Getting on, of course, is a key part of the job description of leadoff man, but Spingola continues to push just how effective you can be in the role. Tuesday's seventh-inning homer extended his streak of reaching base to 25 consecutive games. Only five games all season has he gone without getting a hit and only once all season has he not found a way to get on base at least one time (Feb. 27, vs. Indiana State).
"I'm just really kind of trying to get to a point where I feel comfortable at the plate," said Spingola, last season's ACC hit leader, who heads into the weekend with a team-high 40 hits. "Some games I feel terrible and I just happen to get one lucky hit or something. [Tuesday night] was more my legs weren't really underneath me for the first part of the game and then I finally got my bearings. It's kind of how it's been all year. There has been at least one at-bat a day I feel I need to get on base. So far I've delivered."
Opposing pitchers need convincing probably need convincing that he's anything but locked in. Spingola enters this weekend's home series against No. 15 Virginia hitting .311, slugging .424, with a .401 on-base percentage, ranking fourth, fifth and third on the Jackets.
He's cranked it up in ACC play, batting .381, with a .540 slugging percentage, and a .435 on-base percentage, all second on the team behind injured freshman Kel Johnson, (albeit by quite a distance) but also ranking way ahead of the nearest Jacket -- Matt Gonzalez is 59 points behind in average, and 65 in slugging, and Wade Bailey trails by 65 points in OBP.
Turning it on statistically has been a matter of turning it up subconsciously for conference foes. It's an intensity that for some reason just isn't as great for non-conference games.
"I think, somewhat it's more of a focus for me. Sometimes I kind of lose focus," he said. "You're just trying to get back in the groove of things starting up the season and I wasn't necessarily where I should have been. Once ACC play begins I know what I need to do to be successful, playing these past couple of years in the ACC. I think there's a subconscious switch in a way and it turned on, finally."
Spingola came into ACC play batting .239, with more hitless games (3) than multi-hit games (2, a pair of two-hit games that came back-to-back on Feb. 21 and 22, vs. Coastal Carolina and Albany). In Conference play he's recorded six multi-hit games vs. two hitless games only one by an ACC team. in four of his multi-hit games he had at least three hits, with another a four-hit game last Sunday at Virginia Tech. Five of those six games have come against ACC opponents.
Last weekend at Virginia Tech, Spingola was off the charts, hitting .615 (8-for-13), completing a week during which he hit .500 (10-for-20), driving in six runs (a pair of three-RBI games) and scoring four (a pair of two-run games). He went 3-for-6 on Friday, with two runs scored and three RBIs, needing only a home run for the cycle. On Saturday, the Hokies kept Spingola without multiple hits, as he went 1-for-2, but he still reached base three times, drawing two walks, and scored two runs. Finally, on Sunday, he capped off the weekend and by going 4-for-5, with a pair of doubles and driving in three runs.
The outburst was a parting shot at the Hokies against whom he hit .486 (17-for-35), with a homer, seven runs, and 13 RBIs in nine games (eight starts) in his career and raised his average to .383 (23-for-60) on the road.
Tuesday's blast was a chance to do something for the home folks, where he's batted .250 (18-for-72) for the season, although he is hitting .307 (8-for-26) in ACC play.
He swears it's nothing against the home fans.
"It's been one of those things. It feels like it goes back and forth. Some years I'm better at home, some years I'm better away. I don't know," he said. "It was a nice crowd today so I'm glad I could deliver for them."
He plans on delivering this weekend when the Jackets host Coastal Division rival UVA, against whom he's a career .360 hitter (9-for-25) in seven games (five starts), with a run and and four RBIs. The Cavaliers (20-12, 6-9 in ACC play) sit in fifth place in the Coastal, while still highly ranked nationally, and have stumbled some recently, as they were swept by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, lost two of three to Florida State and were swept by Louisville as part of a seven-game home losing streak. Yet they come to Russ Chandler only a game behind Tech. .
The Jackets (22-11, 7-8), who are in a three-game tie for second with North Carolina and Virginia Tech, have won five of six, but have lost have lost four straight against Virginia, including last year's sweep in Charlottesville and have only a 1-1-1 mark to show from the last three home series, since 2005.
"I think it's a really big series," Spingola said. "They've been struggling a little bit from what I've seen but they're still, obviously, a good team and I think it would be huge for us to take two out of three. I'd love to sweep them, of course. It's a nice challenge for us and we'll see what happens but I'm confident.
"I hate always being right at .500," he added. "It's felt like that the last couple of years and I would just love to pull away a little bit and have a little security."
A little security would help with the team's goals for the second half of ACC play and heading into postseason.
"I want to do well in the ACC Tournament and get to the regional and win one," said Spingola. "I've been there every year and we've got to get over that mountain. I think we can do it this year."
One thing that's money in the bank, Spingola will out there, front -- leadoff, actually -- and in center as the team tries to scale the mountain.
Only Gonzalez (99) has made more consecutive starts than his 88.
"I get banged up once in a while. I try not to take days off because I WANT to be out there," he said. "I stretch a lot and use all the training that we have here. I might annoy [the training staff] sometimes but it definitely keeps me right."
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