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Case Closed

Sept. 7, 2009

by Jon Cooper, OSR Contributing Editor

“Over the top” is a phrase that has been associated with Kevin Jacob, primarily because of his delivery.

But as the hard-throwing righthander comes off a remarkable summer adventure in the Alaska Baseball League and heads into his junior season, the phrase could go beyond describing how he throws and also describe where he could put the Georgia Tech baseball team.

“As a team we want to go to the World Series,” said Jacob, a 6-6, 235-pound fire-baller. “We’ve had the talent the last couple of years but just fell short.”

Coach Danny Hall believes that Jacob, who split the closer’s role last season with freshman Mark Pope, could change that and help the Yellow Jackets return to Omaha for the first time since 2006.

“I think that he’s put himself in a very elite status in terms of college closers,” said Hall. “Honestly, it’s been something we’ve been searching for quite a long time to know that we have somebody in the bullpen who can do that.”

Jacob was 5-3 with a 4.69 ERA overall last season as a starter and reliever, but his numbers were sterling out of the bullpen. He pitched to a 3.18 ERA, with 29 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings, held opposing hitters to a .189 average and allowed just one run in his final four appearances, covering 8 2/3 innings.

The Baltimore, Md., native furthered his cause with his summer project in Alaska. Pitching with the Anchorage Bucs, Jacob dominated, chalking up 12 saves with a 0.34 earned run average in 26 2/3 innings of work. He allowed two runs (only one earned) and nine hits in his 24 appearances, with an 11-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (45 K’s vs. 4 BB’s).

“It went well. It was a lot of fun,” said Jacob, who went to the league at the suggestion of pitching coach Tom Kinkelaar. “It’s pretty much all D-I guys. It’s a lot of West Coast schools. It is pretty good competition. The most fun part of Alaska was fishing and hiking, because Alaska is a really cool outdoors place. Seeing moose and bears made everything that much more exciting.”

Hall said that the handling the conditions was tougher than handling the opposition.

“The sun shines almost 24 hours a day up there [in the summer],” said the Tech skipper. “He said it was a little chilly, so it was kind of hard to get used to at first because you’re used to pitching in a pretty warm climate, so it’s easy to sweat. Up there it was kind of hard to break a sweat a lot of times.

“It was a totally different experience that not many people get a chance to do. So to get to play baseball and get to see the countryside up there, I think he had a great experience.”

Combined with the experience gained as closer at the end of the spring, Jacob is looking forward to 2010 and life in the spotlight.

“I’m pretty excited about it. You kind of follow the game as it goes through because you come in when the game’s pretty much already determined and try not to blow the game,” he said with a laugh.

Hall believes that Jacob has a lot going in his favor as closer, beginning with his mental make-up.

“He’s got great demeanor,” said Hall. “He is very quiet and kind of unassuming, but he does have major talent and he’s a good competitor. So he’s got the right mentality to handle it.”

Then there’s that unorthodox delivery.

“He’s a big guy, so throwing from an angle that’s extremely over the top, being that tall, it just creates what I call a down-angle effect on your fastball,” Hall said. “The ball’s changing planes and that’s hard to hit when you do that. Seeing him one time, he throws at a different arm angle, so to try to see that for only maybe three or four hitters, it’s hard to lock in on where the ball’s coming from.”

With the addition of a cut fastball to a repertoire that features a fastball that averages in the mid-90s and has hit 99 mph, Jacob expects to continue to create big problems for opposing hitters. He prefers to not dig too deep in explaining his success.

“I come from straight over the top pretty much. I’m a lot of arms and legs. It feels good to me. I know other people think it hurts or looks unorthodox. It feels smooth.

“I’m just big and goofy,” he added with a laugh. “But if it’s intimidating it works for me.”

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