Tommy White pledged to play for North Carolina State in 2018 and his reputation as a power hitter preceded him.
It took him one game to live up to it.
The freshman first baseman homered five times in the Wolfpack’s three-game sweep of Evansville. The first of his three in Friday’s 24-6 win came on the second pitch of his first at-bat. His grand slam highlighted Saturday’s 6-4 win, and he went deep again in Sunday’s 7-0 win.
White was 9 for 14 with seven runs scored and 12 RBIs for the weekend. To celebrate, he called his grandparents and went out for a steak dinner with his parents before spending Sunday night trying to decompress.
“Some tears from pops and mom and my grandparents, and friends are calling me and saying how proud they are and that I’ve earned it,” White said. “There’s definitely work to come. We have a long season ahead so I’m not trying to get caught up in what I did.”
White, from St. Pete Beach, Florida, went to NC State from IMG Academy and is physically mature beyond his years with his 6-foot-2, 242-pound frame and beard. He was a high school All-American and Under Armour Home Run Derby champion, and coach Elliott Avent said he’s as good a freshman hitter as he’s signed in 25 years at N.C. State.
White was projected to be picked in the first five rounds of last year’s Major League Baseball draft, but he made it known he planned to stick to his longtime commitment to N.C. State unless a club could match the monetary figure he required to sign. He went undrafted and was happy to go to college.
White said he reflected on that as he went to bat for the first time Friday.
“This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of since I was 8 years old,” he said. “I dreamed of playing D1 college baseball. Now that I was there, I was very nervous going into my first at-bat. My goal was to see a fastball I can drive and unload on one. I was just super nervous and my legs were kind of shaking in the box.”
White sent Shane Gray’s 1-0 fastball more than 400 feet over the center field wall for the first of three balls he muscled out of the deepest part of Doak Field. He said he never had a three-homer game, not even in youth ball.
“I was definitely shocked,” he said.
The grand slam in the second game came after White had struck out with the bases loaded two innings earlier.
“I wanted to get another chance at it,” he said. “I got ahead in the count, 3-1, and there were bases loaded so I knew he had to come to me. It was fastball, and I didn’t miss it.”
White said he was sitting on a curveball in the fourth inning Sunday. He got it and deposited it over the wall in left center.
The Wolfpack are plenty motivated this season after they had their College World Series appearance halted because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. They were one win away from the CWS finals when the NCAA sent them home.
“Everybody is super ready for the challenges we have to face,” he said, “and we’re definitely prepared to go back there.”
IN THE POLLS
Texas (3-0) remained No. 1 in the polls after outscoring Rice 36-3 in a three-game sweep. D1Baseball.com ranks Arkansas (2-1) and Mississippi (3-0) behind the Longhorns. The Nos. 2 and 3 teams are LSU (3-0) and Oklahoma State (2-1), according to Collegiate Baseball newspaper, and Notre Dame (2-1) and Oklahoma State, according to Baseball America.
KNOCKING OFF CHAMPS
Long Beach State took two of three from defending national champion Mississippi State, including a 13-3 win Saturday that marked the biggest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 2013.
Bryant pulled the biggest upset of opening weekend, taking three games from East Carolina to become the first team in Northeast Conference history to sweep a ranked opponent.
BATTLE OF HEAVYWEIGHTS
Oklahoma State scored twice in the ninth inning to beat host Vanderbilt 7-5 and win the series between top-10 teams.
Jake Thompson and Griffin Doersching combined for 11 hits, including five doubles, and the Cowboys were error-free in the three games.
NOT A BAD START
Sacramento State freshman Colin Hunter began his college career with a seven-inning no-hitter in a 2-0 win over Northern Illinois in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday. Hunter struck out nine and walked none, with the Huskies two baserunners reaching on errors.