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April 23, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

This past weekend was unique for Georgia Tech diamond sports.

It marked the first time that both Yellow Jackets baseball and softball were in Chapel Hill on the same weekend to face their North Carolina counterparts.

It was only the third time since 1991 — the first year both teams put the Tar Heels on their schedules — that baseball and softball PLAYED North Carolina on the same day (the others were April 16, 1993, and March 8, 1997).

For freshman outfielder Daniel Spingola, the aligning of the schedules was extra special as it allowed for an impromptu family reunion, as Spingola was born in Chapel Hill before his family moved to Atlanta.

“I didn’t live there for long but my parents definitely did, so we have a lot of family friends there,” he said. “Also my sister playing softball there is definitely really cool. We’re going to have some old friends coming in and my whole family will be there. So it will be nice to see all of them.”

Lori, the younger of his two sisters, is a sophomore at North Carolina, who not only pitches for the Tar Heels but has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the nation in her two years at Chapel Hill.

The weekend offered Daniel, who has become a valuable contributor off the bench in limited action, an opportunity to see his older sister.

“I haven’t seen her much this year and I hope to see one of her games,” he said. “It would be the first time this year. I’m definitely excited just to talk to her and catch up with her. It should be a fun time.”

Daniel was one of few Yellow Jackets who caught up with Lori all weekend and certainly the only one who had any fun seeing her.

The Tar Heels ace won both games of the series, which saw Sunday’s game cancelled due to inclement weather. In Saturday’s first game, she threw a complete game, winning a 3-2, walk-off thriller in a pitchers’ duel with Hope Rush, then, in the nightcap, she threw five innings of one-run, three-hit relief in a come-from-behind win.

Daniel admitted that this was probably the only weekend he wasn’t all in for Georgia Tech softball — understandable, as he couldn’t really have been expected to root against his sister.

“I definitely have to root for her,” he said, with a laugh. “I hope she does well.”

The weather played a factor in him not getting to see Lori pitch on Saturday, as he was busy with baseball, which played a doubleheader, moving Sunday’s game back a day. He made an appearance in the first game for Georgia Tech, reaching on an infield hit in the ninth inning then coming around to score, but Tech dropped the opener, 12-6. The Jackets took the second game, 4-2, to win the series.

He had pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Tech’s 11-4 win on Friday, flying out to left, then finishing the game in left field.

Getting the opportunity to contribute is special for Spingola, a lefty swinger and thrower, who starred in the outfield and on the mound at Marist High School, before coming to Georgia Tech.

Undeterred by not being recruited by Tech, he made the team as a walk-on.

“The experience of everything has been awesome, especially as a walk-on,” said Spingola, whose father played college ball at IUP. “Getting the opportunity to extend my career and actually start getting some at-bats and making a difference has been a very good experience.”

“[Contributing] definitely makes me feel like I’m truly a part of the team,” he added. “It’s nerve-wracking getting in the games sometimes, hitting in that situation. So coming through for the team definitely is fun and makes me feel like I’m contributing as much as I can at this point in my career.”

Spingola, who enters tonight’s game against Georgia at Turner Field hitting .333 (.300 in ACC play), has taken advantage when getting his shots. He got his first college hit on March 13, leading off the eighth inning with a single as a pinch-hitter against Wagner.

He then had a memorable day on March 24th, playing in both ends of the doubleheader at Boston College. He pinch-hit in the first game, going 1-for-2 with a fourth-inning double and a run scored. In the second game, he made his first start, playing in right field. He was 0-for-2 but made both plays in the field and chalked up an outfield assist.

His season of firsts saw his first RBI against Florida State on April 8th, in the seventh inning of that series finale.

Coming back to Chapel Hill to play for the first time as a collegian was more thrill than pressure. Of course, not much can equal or surpass the pressure of having to prove oneself as a walk-on.

“I would definitely say that in the beginning there is kind of more pressure as every day you’re fighting to make the team and you don’t know until the end,” he said. “But once you’re on [the team], it’s kind of like, you’ve got nothing to lose. You just have to play your heart out. After you make it you can only go up from there.”


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