By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Transferring to Baylor from the University of Nevada after four years of being part of the wolf pack is quite the change. For senior transfer right-handed pitcher Jake Jackson, that change was “tough,” and with being new, he said he dealt with having to establish himself and build his reputation. Fortunately, the team welcomed Jackson and made him feel part of the “Baylor Family,” integrating him into a sense of team unity as Baylor baseball continues through their fall slate.
“Hats off to all the guys that have been here, Jack Pineda, Tyler Thomas, just to name a few,” Jackson said. “Those guys kind of acclimated me and all the other new guys into this program really well. It made it feel like family right from the beginning and it’s been really fun to grow with these guys over the course of the fall and just continue to build off of what we’ve already established.”
Jackson made his way to Baylor through the transfer portal, where lots of teams have found success. Head coach Steve Rodriguez said that this was the first time the team has gone to the transfer portal, and that it was a major adjustment. Rodriguez said that being able to get Jackson was huge for the team, regardless of the struggles the staff faced along the way.
“Being able to find Jake was a great blessing for us,” Rodriguez said. “[He’s] just a tremendous boost to our pitching staff; watching him come in and have the work ethic that he does, and quite honestly the excitement that he has being here at Baylor, [is great].”
Being a pitcher, Jackson said that having strong hitting performances, like the Bears showcased last season, is super important. He said that it alleviates pressure off of him and motivates him to give his all on the mound.
“Oh, that’s the best feeling ever, is when you get run support as a pitcher,” Jackson said. “Knowing that those guys are battling for you, it just makes you want to go battle for them just as much and continue to compete and continue to give the team the best chance to win.”
Rodriguez said that this attitude from Jackson is one of the many things that makes him so good. He said it will make Jackson successful and allow him to dominate in his role.
“Well that’s what makes him so good,” Rodriguez said. “Being able to have that attitude, that, ‘Hey, they got my back, I’m going to do everything I can to keep them from scoring,’ that’s what’s going to make him successful. He’s not going to complain about stuff, he’s not going to worry about things that he has no control over. He’s going to go out there and just dominate the thing that he has control over.”
In Baylor’s recent exhibition match against the Texas Rangers’ Instructional League team, Jackson pitched five scoreless innings, recording seven strikeouts. Rodriguez said that Jackson controlled the tempo of the game early on and commanded the strike zone. He said the team will always have a chance to win with Jackson at the mound.
“He had command of his pitches, he threw strikes where he wanted to throw them,” Rodriguez said. “He controlled the tempo of the game. For us, it was a great thing to see and watching him go out there, it gives the team a boost of energy knowing that you’ve got something like that on the mound to kind of lead the way. He might make a mistake or two, but he can give you a chance to win every single time he’s out there.”
For the upcoming spring season, Jackson said that he and the team want to make it to the NCAA tournament and anything less will be a letdown.
“We want to win, man,” Jackson said. “ I got a little taste of playing in the postseason last year with Nevada and I look forward to kind of carrying that over with Baylor this year and get us back into the postseason and back into the NCAA tournament. [The NCAA tournament] was one of the best atmospheres that I have ever experienced. You can’t match it; regular season game[s] do not come close. That is our goal and I mean, anything short of that will be a very disappointing season.”