Gonzaga righty Alek Jacob often flummoxes the West Coast Conference’s most productive hitters.
It isn’t the North Central product’s middle-of-the-road velocity that’s led to their frustration.
Jacob, who sports a 2.31 earned-run average and has a team-high 69 strikeouts, isn’t choosing from a dozen pitches in his toolbox, either.
It’s the sophomore’s unorthodox delivery that’s helped him make the move to NCAA Division I baseball with aplomb.
Jacob, who is 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, dips his lanky frame into a low, sidearm motion from which he spits out a variety of offerings, keeping hitters guessing.
“The coaches have really worked with me and have had sidearmed pitchers in the past,” said Jacob, referring to former Bulldogs star Wyatt Mills, drafted in the third round by the Seattle Mariners in 2017.
“I wasn’t throwing super hard in high school, so I was kind of hidden in that way.”
Jacob, who grew up walking distance from Patterson Baseball Complex, generated interest from a couple of junior colleges and Whitworth two years ago, his senior season at NC.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Machtolf and pitching coach Brandon Harmon saw a Division I hurler in Jacob, who led the Greater Spokane League in strikeouts two years ago.
“We thought he was different,” Machtolf said. “He had a different arm slot, competed well and threw a lot of strikes.
“We gave him a chance, and he’s done awesome. He’s pitched very well and excelled.”
Last season, Jacob made the swift transition from the GSL in helping the Bulldogs win the WCC Tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Jacob appeared in 17 games (7-5 record), totaled 95 strikeouts, a 2.88 ERA and was named to the All-WCC Freshman Team. He struck out a career-high 12 batters last year in a win over Santa Clara.
“When I got my feet under me, I knew what I needed to know and where I needed to be,” Jacob said of the transition. “I have definitely made some strides.”
This season, Jacob, who has racked up 20 appearances, leads Gonzaga in wins (6-3) and saves (nine). Now he’s aiming for a WCC regular-season title.
Gonzaga entertains Lamar in a three-game conference series beginning Friday, but the Bulldogs are in a race for the league crown heading into next weekend, the final week of WCC play.
Gonzaga will need a little help if it wants to earn the No. 1 seed at the WCC tournament in Stockton, California, later this month.
BYU ( 15-6 WCC) is ahead of second-place Gonzaga ( 16-8 WCC), but the Cougars still have WCC series with San Francisco and Santa Clara. The Bulldogs have one remaining WCC series, at Loyola Marymount next weekend.
Gonzaga won its WCC series at BYU in March.
“It’s between us and them again,” Jacob said of BYU. “There’s been a history of that. They’re our rival.”
Cougars host No. 1 UCLA
For the third time this season, Washington State has won consecutive games.
The last-place Cougars (10-33-1, 2-18-1 Pac-12) clipped conference rival Washington 13-2 on Sunday and beat Gonzaga 9-5 on Monday in nonconference play in Spokane.
But now the Cougars face their toughest of the season: top-ranked UCLA.
The Bruins (38-8, 16-5) come to Pullman for a three-game series that begins Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field.
Freshman infielder Kyle Manzardo, a former Lake City standout, has started 35 games for WSU this season. He ranks second on the team in RBIs (24).
Sasquatch can clinch East title
Sixth-ranked Community Colleges of Spokane is hot at the right time.
The Sasquatch (28-14, 19-7 Northwest Athletic Conference East Region) bring a seven-game win streak into their final regular-season series with Columbia Basin this weekend in Pasco.
CCS, which holds a one-game lead over Yakima Valley (27-16, 18-8) atop the East standings, can clinch at least a share of the title if it splits its doubleheader with CBC.
A sweep of CBC would give the Sasquatch the outright title.
Third-place CBC (22-16, 17-9) could potentially create a tie atop the league if it sweeps CCS.
CCS slugger Mitch Dean is tied for third in the NWAC in home runs (seven). Boise State commit Reed Harrington ranks first in saves (10).
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