Sophomore-to-be Jake Vance, and junior Connor Curlis, are putting their summer to good use, preparing to make a major contribution with the 2018 Buckeyes.
Springfield – Sophomore-to-be Jake Vance smiled at our arrival. It’s nice to know that someone’s paying attention, his grin let us know.
And where Vance is concerned, the Massillon native is making his best pitch this summer with the Springfield Champion Kings of the Prospect League…that he’s to be taken seriously come fall baseball with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and then beyond for the 2018 season.
He worked (pitched) Tuesday night – a complete game (7 inning) five hit, 4-2 win, over the Kokomo, Indiana Jack Rabbits…and made it look, it not easy, routine.
His fastball was sufficient, in the high 80s.
But his secondary pitches, slider and change-up, were used with the confidence of a young man who’s rapidly growing comfortable in his own skin.
“Command,” he said afterwards, assessing his performance. “I was able to get ahead of hitters today and that makes a big difference. I didn’t have a lot of strikeouts (two) but I’ll take it. There were pitches I threw that I second-guessed afterwards, or you think about how you could have done it better, but that’s why I’m here.”
A 6’3” freshman from Canton Central Catholic High School, Vance more than got his feet wet last spring, throwing 26 innings without gaining a win. He finished the season with an 0-3 record, but with a clear enough resume’ for improvement. His issue…command. In those 26 innings he walked 20 while striking out 22.
“I was more efficient tonight,” said Vance after Tuesday’s win. “I got guys out. Didn’t give up as many hits. I threw a lot more strikes, only 75 pitches, and only had one walk going into the seventh inning.”
And that’s why he’s in Springfield this summer, learning to throw more strikes, limit the number of hits surrendered, and to be more efficient with the number of pitches he throws. A former state champion with Central Catholic, he’s now faced with the task of making adjustments to compete at a next higher level.
“My approach now is just get everyone out,” says Vance. “I know that’s every pitcher’s approach, but I have to take that same approach into the fall and make it work for me at Ohio State.
“Stuff-wise, I’ve been working on the slider, to be more efficient, and my change-up is a big pitch for me. It’s a good pitch for me and I throw it a lot.”
Coming off a 22-34 season, opportunity for advancement at almost every position is available come 2018, and Vance knows it. Like every other Buckeye competing in the summer leagues, Jake Vance is out to send home a positive impression.
“I just want them to know that I’m working on my fastball command,” he smiled, mindful, no doubt, of the walks to strikeouts ratio last spring.
“My fastball was good tonight. I got ahead of a lot of hitters and made them swing early. I got the breaking ball over for strikes and the change-up was working. When you’re doing all that…it’s a lot easier to pitch.”
And by the way, Springfield and Ohio State teammate Connor Curlis is coming off his best start of the summer, a win over Quincy, Illinois, so that bodes well for competition in the starting rotation come fall practice.
“He was outstanding,” said Springfield assistant Mark Lucas of the Buckeye junior lefthander (Curlis). “He was sharp, his breaking ball was dominating, and I think he’s on the verge of becoming very special.”
One small step in Springfield, of course, but one that can pay huge dividends next spring in Minneapolis, Lincoln, and Ann Arbor, come next spring’s Big Ten season.
“Spotting the fastball better, my curveball’s been good, I’m just trying to keep the hitters off balance,” said Curlis Tuesday. “This experience is just huge. Last year I was a little scared coming into summer ball, but after my innings at Ohio State this spring I’m here now knowing what I have to do to improve. This is helping me a lot.”