• Photo Showcase: 2011 College Home Run Derby
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Using a routine honed by hours of practice in the backyard and a bat that had spent the last year gathering dust, Daniel Aldrich capped off the finest season by a freshman college baseball player with another accolade Saturday night.
The freshman outfielder from the College of Charleston, who earned National Freshman of the Year honors, won the second annual College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park. With his father, Charles, pitching to him, Aldrich outslugged 2011 NCAA home run leader Victor Roache 4-2 in the final round to capture the championship in front of a crowd of 20,578.
Aldrich said having his father share the night with him made Saturday one of the highlights of a season that saw Aldrich named Freshman of the Year by the College Baseball Writers of America after hitting .347 with 22 home runs with 73 RBIs.
“It's awesome. It's a one-time experience,” Aldrich said. “He gave me the love of the game and has worked with me all my life.”
Aldrich led all sluggers Saturday with 10 home runs through the first two rounds — six more than any other batter — but started slowly in the finals. The left-hander had just two home runs with one out remaining, but hit back-to-back blasts to right field before recording his eighth and final out.
“I was getting frustrated,” Aldrich said. “I knew at that point, every homer counted. Hitting two out like that was clutch."
Roache, who hit a Division I-best 30 home runs this season, didn't look like he was going to pose much of a challenge in the finals, going homerless in his first seven swings. But the Georgia Southern sophomore lifted back-to-back home runs just over the left field wall before hitting a shallow fly ball to end the competition. Roache also had his father, Victor Roache Sr., throwing his pitches.
Hitters discovered early the low number of home runs hit at TD Ameritrade Park during last month's College World Series was no fluke. The first three batters combined for just one home run on their first 24 swings, and a crossfield breeze from the north kept many balls hit to left field from leaving the park.
“The flag was blowing pretty hard to right tonight,” said the right-handed hitting Roache. “We were taking (batting practice) earlier and we knew it was going to be tough for right-handed hitters.”
So the players enlisted the help of some old weapons. They were allowed to use their old bats that were outlawed under NCAA restrictions which went into effect this year. Aldrich said he had to do some digging to find the bat that would help him win.
“It was just sitting around gathering dust in my garage at home,” Aldrich said.
Charles Aldrich said he and his son didn't devise any special strategy in Saturday's event, but maybe had a small advantage from the countless pitches Daniel had seen from his father at the family's South Carolina home.
“It was just like throwing to him in the back yard like when he was a little kid,” Charles Aldrich said.
After hitting two of the nine total home runs at the College World Series a few weeks ago, Vanderbilt's Connor Harrell could not recreate a similar surge. The sophomore hit just one home run in the competition.
Two batters, Arizona State's Joey DeMichele and Bucknell's Doug Shribman, were shut out.
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