After watching Victor Roache hit a season's worth of home runs in two games against his team, The Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan was duly impressed.
"He will make any ballpark look small," Jordan said of the Georgia Southern slugger, who hit five of his NCAA-best 29 home runs in two games against the Bulldogs in early April. "He has true power, and it's not small ballpark power. He's one of the more talented power guys in the country."
Roache, a muscular 6-1, 225-pound sophomore, enters the Southern Conference Tournament as one of college baseball's rising stars. His 29 homers led all of Division I and set a SoCon record, and he also hit .335 and drove in 78 runs.
Roache's 29 homers exceeded or matched the total of six SoCon teams, but those squads shouldn't feel bad. He also hit more homers than 176 of 299 Division I teams, according to Baseball America.
And all of this with the new bat that suppressed offensive numbers around the country this season.
"It is amazing," said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. "Obviously, we felt Victor would be an improved player for this year and put up some numbers, but I don't think anybody saw 29 homers coming."
Roache battled shin splints as a freshman and hit .252 with eight homers and 38 RBI in 47 games, then broke an ankle in fall ball. But he's seemingly improved with each at-bat, cutting his strikeout ratio from once every 3.6 at-bats last year to once every 5.5 at-bats this season.
And he's no dead-pull hitter. Roache blasts balls to every part of the field.
Roache, who grew up a Detroit Tigers fan in Ypsilanti, Mich., was actually drafted in the 25th round by the Tigers out of high school. But Roache was determined to play college ball in the South, and GSU coaches spied him at a showcase in Dayton, Ohio. The Eagles got Roache and sophomore outfielder Scooter Williams, who is from Detroit.
"They started talking to me a lot, and I did a little research and figured Georgia Southern was a good fit for me," said Roache. "It's a 15-hour drive from home, but I wanted to come down South to play. (GSU) is a good school with a good baseball program, so it's been good."
Two of the top five home run hitters in Division I play in the SoCon:
Player, Team HR
(tie) Paul Hoilman, East Tennessee State 22
(tie) Jake Lowery, James Madison 22
(tie) Xavier Macklin, North Carolina A&T 22