History of four-home run games in college baseball
Update on May 21, 2017: Cal State Fullerton's Scott Hurst goes 5-for-5 with four home runs
Updated story: Louisville's Brendan McKay joined an exclusive club of batters to hit four home runs in a single game, after going 4-for-5 with four round-trippers and nine RBIs on April 25 in the Cardinals' 14-4 victory over Eastern Kentucky.
Only 16 Major Leaguers have done the same — a group that includes five Hall of Famers. In the collegiate ranks, the list is longer but certainly not all that common.
Former Florida State slugger Marshall McDougal holds the NCAA record for most in a single game when he went deep in six consecutive at-bats against Maryland on May 9, 1999. Ex-Campbell Camel Henry Rochelle (five homers against Radford in 1985) joins him as the only other student-athlete to hit more than four in a single outing.
NCAA.org only began collecting single-game high stats prior to the 2012 season, leaving the exact number of four-home run hitters in Division I history unknown. In these six seasons since, however, there have been six different players to accomplish the feat.
All six instances, including McKay's performance in April and Hurst's in May, have come in the past three seasons. From 2012-14, 25 players hit three homers in a game, but zero reached the next level.
|Scott Hurst||Cal St. Fullerton||CSUN||May 20, 2017|
|Brendan McKay||Louisville||Eastern Kentucky||April 25, 2017|
|Tyler Dixon||Murray State||Eastern Illinois||April 2, 2016|
|Darick Hall||Dallas Baptist||Incarnate Word||March 22, 2016|
|Tyler Lawrence||Murray State||Morehead State||May 15, 2015|
|JJ Schwarz||Florida||Stetson||April 7, 2015|
Murray State sure knows how to breed sluggers, having had a player to join this company in consecutive seasons. Tyler Dixon went 4-for-5 with four homers and six RBIs in a 31-11 bashing of Eastern Illinois last year. In that same game, teammate Tyler Lawrence collected four hits for six RBIs. But that's nothing compared to Lawrence's career day the season prior, when the catcher hit four homers for 11 RBIs against Morehead State in 2015.
Lawrence is currently in his senior year with the Racers, batting .296 with six home runs. Dixon made the most of his lone season at Murray State, where he finished with six home runs in 2016 as a graduate student. That came after he had zero homers in just 28 at bats in two years at Memphis.
Hall's four-homer display marked the fourth time a Patriot reached that total, according to Dallas Baptist Athletics. The first baseman hit 20 home runs in 2016 before being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round. He then hit nine home runs and 19 doubles in his first season for the Single A Williamsport Crosscutters.
As for Schwarz, now a junior for the Gators, his four came in an 18-home run standout freshman season. Since then his power numbers have dipped — he has 12 since — but he's a key part of Florida's lineup. And he has a knack for going deep at the right time. Earlier this week he hit a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Gators to a big conference win over South Carolina.
Here are a few other individuals among the bunch to reach four home runs in a single game in the years before NCAA.org kept track:
Jim LaFountain, Louisville: McKay became the second Cardinal in program history to go deep four times. LaFountain was the first, back on April 24, 1976. The former first baseman and catcher did so against Western Kentucky while also setting the single-game RBI record (at the time) with 14. Three of his home runs that day were grand slams — two came in the same inning. LaFountain went on to play minor league ball in the Minnesota Twins organization before retiring due to knee problems.
Bill Sandry, Kentucky: For all the talent and tradition to come out of the SEC, only two players have ever hit four home runs in a single game. Schwarz joined the former Wildcat Sandry, who first did so in 1982 against Eastern Kentucky. Sandry was taken in the 23rd round of the 1982 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox and played in the minor leagues from 1982-84.
Henry Rochelle, Campbell: Rochelle's five round-trippers came in a 38-0 victory over Radford on March 30, 1985. And those homers accounted for just over half his day. He finished 8-for-8 with 10 RBIs. Rochelle went on to become an All-Conference player and led the Camels to their first Big South title in his 1988 senior season.
Bill Heinz, Iowa: The former Hawkeye joined the club on April 20, 1988 with four homers in a 17-3 win over Minnesota. Heinz finished his Iowa career as the program leader in doubles (54).
Bubba Smith, Illinois: Smith smashed four home runs for 10 RBIs, including a grand slam, on May 7, 1991 against in-state rival Illinois-Chicago. The career day broke five single-game school records along the way (home runs, hits, RBIs, total bases and runs scored). Smith was scooped up by the Phillies in the 59th round of the 1988 draft and played 17 professional seasons between the minor leagues and the Mexican and Korean leagues.
Marshall McDougal, Florida State: The single-game home run king still holds the NCAA records for most home runs (six), hits (seven) and RBIs (16) in a contest after pacing the way in the 26-2 rout over Maryland. The second baseman finished with a .419 batting average that 1999 season (sixth in FSU single season history). He was later drafted by the Texas Rangers with the ninth overall pick in 2002 and played in 11 Major League games in 2005. He was 3-for-18 with a double while playing six different positions during his brief cup of coffee with the Rangers.
What's interesting is when you look at the timeline of collegiate baseball rules put into place over the past half-decade and how that coincides with the number of four-home run games.
Current BBCOR bat standards were put into place in 2011 — one season before single-game high stats were collected. These standards required the use of non-wooden bats that can't produce batted ball speeds that surpass that of wooden bats. As a result, power numbers expectedly saw a decline.
According to NCAA.org, home runs totals per school per game dropped nearly in half from 0.94 in 2010 to 0.52 in 2011, right after the newly-enforced standard was introduced. In 2014, the average plummeted down to 0.39. With overall home runs totals dipping, so did individuals' single-game totals. That's evident in the zero instances of four-home run single games from 2012-14.
But what about the uptick in these performances over the past three seasons? That's partly thanks to another rule that was introduced in 2015.
In response to the drop in offensive numbers, college baseball moved to using a flat seam ball full-time two years ago. According to lab research done at Washington State at the time, it was predicted that this change, which would cause less drag, would lead to upward of 20 added feet on batted balls. Thus, more home runs again.
The home run per game mark was back up to 0.61 last season and is hovering around the 0.60 mark again so far this year. With this increase in home runs, we're once again seeing more individual multi-homer games again — including those special four-homer performances.
McKay hasn't been alone in threatening for the quadfecta in 2017. Thirty-two Division I players have come close this season with three in a game. And, as the two-a-year trend set in the 2015 and 2016 indicated, a second student-athlet, Hurst, got the chance to etch his name onto the four-homer list by season's end. Will there be a third?