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11 May 2007

Hometown Newspaper Looks at JSU Senior Third Baseman's
4th OVC Championship Ring Chase

Ball wants fourth OVC title in final year

Jimmy Smothers
Sports Editor Emeritus
Gadsden Times

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Jake Ball

His name is Jake Ball and that just about says it all when it comes to baseball at Jacksonville State University. He is winding up a four-year career in record fashion, looking for a fourth championship ring.

Coming into this season he had his sights set on the ring.

"We got rings my first three years so I really want one my last year," Ball said earlier this week before practice. "Basically, that was my only goal. I just wanted to relax and have a lot of fun my final year, so I didn't set any other individual goals."

That kind of attitude has paid off for Ball, who is listed first in seven of 20 university career records and is among the top 10 leaders in 12 categories.

With seven regular season games remaining, plus the conference tournament and NCAA playoffs remaining, Ball is already the career leader in most games played, most games started, most at-bats, most walks, most sacrifice flies, most times reaching base on an error and most times reaching base on a fielder's choice.

Ball needs only seven more hits to break Stewart Lee's record for most hits (241) in a career at Jacksonville State.

Ball said he wasn't aware of all the records.

"I guess that is just something that happens when you relax and have fun," he said. "That's what this year has been for me. I knew it would be my last year to play baseball here and I wanted to enjoy it."

After a sensational sophomore season, when he hit .363 and made the Ohio Valley Conference all-tournament team, a lot of people were predicting a lot of big things from him going into his junior season. His average dropped to .291, but he still made the regular season All-OVC second team for the second time.

He didn't want that kind of pressure as a senior; so he's just gone out every day and played ball to the best of his ability without worrying about batting averages or fielding percentages. Things have gone well for him.

Ball is currently hitting .333, third best on the team; his career average is .309, fourth best among the nine starters although he has far more at-bats. Ball has 235 hits in 760 at-bats. Richard Turner has 561 at-bats, but only 151 hits and his batting average is eighth best among the nine starters. His defensive percentage is .919.

When Ball was playing for Hokes Bluff High School he just about did it all, leading the Eagles to state championships in both baseball and football. He was the quarterback on the football team; pitched, played infield and was both a clutch and home run hitter in baseball.

At Jacksonville State he's stuck to one sport and basically one position.

"I've played some shortstop, but primarily I'm the third baseman," he said. "I didn't go out for football here, but I think I could have played. Sometimes I miss it."

In college, Ball doesn't hit for the fences either, with only four home runs this year. He's also hit one triple and 10 doubles among his 61 hits in 183 at-bats.

"I mostly hit the ball over the short and third baseman into left and left-center field," he said. "I don't try for the long ball much."

Ball seems to be best hitting fast balls in clutch situations. He is hitting .500 when the bases are loaded; .365, when there are one or two runners on base; and .291, when no one is on baseball.

He has more at-bats against left-handed pitches, but a better average against right-handers, .341 to .314.

Earlier he had a 15-game hitting streak, which ties Clay Whittemore for the second longest streak on the team this year. Garrett Bass is currently on a 23-game hitting streak.

Ball's streak started on March 3 in the first of a three-game series against Samford, going two for four. The streak continued through the third game of a series against Eastern Kentucky on April 22, when he had three hits in five at-bats.

The streak ended on April 24 when he was 0-4 against Troy. He also was hitless in three at-bats against Troy on March 27, the game before the hitting streak began.

Ball said he would like to have a chance to play professional baseball, but he isn't going to sit around waiting. He already has made plans to return to school this fall to finish work on his degree in physical education and do his practice teaching. He will work in the sports information office under director Greg Seitz, which will give him addition training for a career in coaching.

"He wants to be a teacher and coach, just like his dad," Seitz said. "Learning a little about dealing with the media should be a big benefit for a coach."

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