SK hoping to climb Jacob's ladder

Slick. Studly. Quick. Determined. Smart. Athletic. Speedy. Hard-working.

Pick any of the above and chances are it will fit in any sentence used to describe Zach Jacob.

But the best adjective for the South Kitsap senior may be driven. And the thing that has driven him all throughout his young life has been baseball.

Jacobs has been a driving force all season for the Wolves. He was in the middle of SK’s turnaround at the year’s midway point and he will surely be somewhere in the middle of the action this week as the Wolves vie for a spot in the Class 4A state baseball tournament.

South played Hudson’s Bay late Friday night in Vancouver. The winner of that game advanced to the state tourney as a No. 4 seed while the loser faces the winner of the Bellarmine Prep-Todd Beamer game tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Tacoma’s Heidelberg Park.

Entering this year’s post-season, Jacob is near or at the top in many offensive categories for South. His .431 batting average is second on the team, as is his .517 on-base percentage. The senior leads the team in runs batted in with 13 and is second in steals with four.

But it wasn’t always that way. Jacob was more into basketball when he was younger and admits to being better at that game than baseball. But about the time he hit junior high, baseball had his full attention.

And his statistics have vindicated that belief with each passing year.

“I’ve always been better at hitting than defense,” Jacob said. “But I’ve always been strong on defense.”

Jacob acknowledges he spends more time and concentration on the offensive side to the game because he knows that’s what most coaches are looking for. If you can hit, he says, coaches will find a spot for you somewhere in the field.

His spot, since eighth grade, has been on the left side of the infield. He plays shortstop for South and third for his summer league team.

But short is where he feels he belongs. Next to pitcher, it’s the glamour position in the game, and that’s what drew Jacob to it in the first place.

“When I was little, that was it,” he said. “And then it stuck ever since then. I love playing shortstop.

“I’ve always won the position I’ve been competing for,” Jacob said. “Whenever I wanted a position, I got it every time.”

His position in the Wolves’ lineup and in the field has been a huge reason for their recent success. After hitting a season low-point during April, the Wolves were 4-5 and on a three-game losing streak by mid-month.

Even worse, the team had been swept by lowly Olympic.

“The Olympic games – we played like crap, and it was embarrassing,” Jacob said. “That was probably the low point of baseball for me.

“I think it was some chemistry problems,” Jacob said. “We weren’t playing as a team and we weren’t having any fun at all. But now ... I can’t remember a better time playing baseball in my career.”

Winning will do that, and things have definitely turned around.

Five straight wins, including six of their last seven, have South on the brink of Jacob’s first-ever trip to the state tournament.

“My goal is ... if we can make it to the final four at Safeco Field, that would be the highlight of my life,” Jacob said. “Standing out there at shortstop, knowing that Derek Jeter played out there, that Alex Rodriguez stepped on the same soil,” Jacob said, “ah, man.”

And while that has most of his focus, Jacob is keeping an eye on the college scene and his baseball future.

“He’s a good kid – he’s very driven to make a better life for himself through baseball,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “He likes this game a lot.”

Jacob has been in contact with the University of Washington, and to play for the Huskies would fulfill another dream of his. But he is also being very realistic about things.

The Huskies are solid at both third and short this season, and Jacob’s prospects are to redshirt or sit and watch for a year.

Instead, he’s leaning toward attending and playing at Skagit Valley Community College in Mount Vernon next season.

“I got a good offer to go play there, and (the coach) seems really excited to have me there,” Jacob said. “So I could go there for a year and get bigger and faster and play shortstop every day.”

After that, who knows? Maybe UW, maybe somewhere else, like the baseball draft.

But for now, he’s driven to getting South back to the state tournament, a place it hasn’t been since 2003.

“I say we get on a roll and get to state,” Jacob said, “and win a state championship. It would be just like the 2003 team.”

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