Star pitcher shows his mettle

Dean Jacobs in action on the mound.

South African men’s senior pitcher, Dean Jacobs, 25, led the attack for Athlone A’s from the mound against the struggling Crusaders outfit.

And, despite the Grassy Park-based side’s lowly position on the Major League log, they stepped out onto the plate with confidence and were not going to hand over the points without a fight.

The young Crusaders side started off with aplomb and took an early 4-0 lead to put the home side on the back foot. However, the experience of the Athlone side shone brightest, and they showed why they are one of the top-three teams in the league.

Jacobs is no newcomer to being in the firing line and admitted to a sluggish start in the clash against Crusaders. He struggled to find his usual rhythm from the get-go, but, once he did, the visitors got front row seats to witness the right arm of an international pitcher.

Earlier this year, Jacobs pitched for the South African men’s team at the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

“Crusaders got a good start to the game and were definitely boosted after those first few runs. It’s always difficult for a team who are struggling at the bottom of the table to try and get a win next to their name – and they gave a good account of themselves,” said Jacobs.

“Every pitcher is always happy to get the go ahead on matchday from the coach to start off from the hill. I was amped when he said I’m starting, but it took me a bit longer than usual to get into my zone.

“I eventually did, in the third innings, and that’s when they found it difficult to score any more runs off me,” he said.

Jacobs was replaced by Lloyd Stevens on the mound in the fifth innings, once he completed his pitch count. By then, the damage to Crusaders’ morale was already done and Stevens saw through Athlone A’s 11-4 victory.

Formerly with Silvertree Baseball Club, Jacobs has been pitching since the age of nine.

“I was with Silvertree for 16 years and am grateful for everything I learnt there,” said Jacobs.

“I wanted to gain more knowledge, experience different coaching methods and get new ideas about the game.

“So far, I’ve enjoyed the new challenge with my new team. I felt immediately at home and settled in very quickly because I know most of the players in the squad,” he said.

A former Plumstead High School pupil, Jacobs said it was a dream come true when he donned the South African national team jersey at the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, in Australia.

“I made my debut for South Africa at the Classic. It was the best experience of my career so far – getting the chance to wear the green and gold on live TV,” said Jacobs.

“Playing abroad has always been a career goal of mine, and I managed to achieve it. And, it was an amazing feeling to get called out onto the mound to pitch on such a big stage.

“We reached the final at the qualifiers but finished second after losing to Australia in the finals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Athlone A’s will look for Jacobs’ experience to come to the fore as they head into the second round of games.

After 10 matches played, Bellville Tygers and Westridge Yankees occupy first and second spots, respectively, with Athone A’s in third. And, Crusaders are yet to register a win and are at the tail end of the table.

“Athlone A’s finished second on the log last season so this season has been an adjustment for me because I’m now playing with a top team.

“We’ve had a bit of a bumpy start so far but are improving with every game. This week we are playing night ball against VOB, at Chukker Road. This is the start of the second round of fixtures and it will be a nice
encounter ,” said Jacobs.

In other action: Major League log leaders Bellville beat VOB 9-2; second placed Westridge Yankees beat Durbanvill 8-2; and, last year’s champions Bothasig were down 9-5 against Maitland but the game was suspended. In the Promotion League, Battswood beat Milnerton 8-7; Helderberg beat Thistle 21-2, and log leaders Van Der Stel smashed Devonshire 18-4.