This year’s best pitcher in Southern California didn’t take the mound last spring. Instead, he was behind the plate.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, El Toro (Lake Forest, Calif.) senior right-hander Jake Jackson has led his team to Friday night’s Southern Section Division 1 championship game against Corona.
Jackson did so after playing catcher for the entirety of last year, as the position was a team need. His pitching prowess was a bit of an unknown entering this season, but perhaps not to recruiters from the University of Nevada. The Wolfpack coaches offered him a scholarship based largely on seeing him throw one inning of summer ball two years ago, along with the fact his father played for former Nevada coach Gary Powers.
Current Wolfpack coach T.J. Bruce has to love what he’s seen out of Jackson.
“High baseball IQ, and as competitive as I’ve been around,” Bruce told the Times.
The IQ and the competitive nature are also mixed with some above-par raw talent. Per the Times, Jackson has a record of 11-1 with an 0.66 earned-run average and has walked just seven batters in 85 innings. His slider has apparently been a revelation.
“He’s taught himself everything,” Jackson’s father, Wade, told the Times. “I sit behind home plate, and I’ve never seen a slider move like his does for an 18-year-old.”
Jackson is not alone in being a mound newcomer for the Chargers (26-7-1), who last won a title in 2008 when Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was on the team. Junior lefty Erik Tolman, a Cal Poly commit, is 8-3 after not pitching a year ago. The top pitchers in the preseason for El Toro were UCLA signee Sam Glick and San Diego State signee Noah Fluman. Both have been supportive of their teammates/late-to-the-game pitchers.
Asked about pitching at Dodger Stadium, Jackson told the Times, “I’m stoked.”
From not taking any mound a year ago, to setting foot on the same bump on which the likes of Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw have honed their craft. Not a bad transition at all.