WHITING — Luke Jaksich started the next step in his career a little earlier than he had anticipated.
A member of the state champion Andrean 59ers in his sophomore and junior years, Jaksich saw his senior year end in the sectional championship. Now that his time with the 59ers is up, Jaksich has been preparing for his freshman year at St. Joseph’s College with the Oilmen.
“When you’re with (Andrean coach) Dave Pishkur, it’s all about winning and he has over 900 wins so he knows what he’s doing,” Jaksich said. “It ended a little earlier than we wanted to this year but I had some good times there. When you play for Andrean, it’s real loose and that’s how it is for college and how it is here. Playing loose like we did and having fun when we play has helped me move on in that next step of my career.”
To begin his Midwest Collegiate League career, Jaksich received a rude awakening — realizing ‘hey, this isn’t high school anymore.’
“In my first start, I had a homer hit off of me and the next time out of the bullpen I had another homer hit off of me,” Jaksich said. “That never happened at Andrean because I threw it down the middle, at worst it’s probably a double. It’s way different here and it’s cool going up against these guys who hit the ball hard every time because you can learn from your mistakes. You have to stay on your game at all times.”
A starter at the beginning of the season, the southpaw ran into command issues and found his way to the bullpen. Since then, Jaksich has been more than impressive in a relief role for the Oilmen, resulting in a few spot starts in the Oilmen rotation.
“This is a really good pitching staff so I’m in there when they can mix me in,” Jaksich said. “When I’m starting it’s about throwing strikes and getting ahead, and out of the bullpen it’s about throwing even more strikes and getting ahead. You go as hard you can in the one or two innings out of the ‘pen, and conserve your energy as a starter. If I come in a situation with guys on second and third, I just pound the zone, get ahead and keep them guessing.”
Whether it’s been as a reliever or a starter, the former 59er has put up quality numbers for the Oilmen. He has made eight appearances, including three starts, and holds a 4-0 record with a 2.88 ERA. His 34 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings pitched are second on the team and he’s holding opposing hitters to a .199 batting average.
As Jaksich suits up for the Pumas in his freshman season, his experience in the MCL as both a starter and a reliever will have him ready for either role.
“Getting in this league was very helpful because I want to play right away in college,” he said. “I’m going to finish strong going into St. Joe’s and hopefully the coach there will recognize something I’ve learned coming out of high school; I’ve learned a lot here that will help me heading into college.
“Coaches told me they hope to try me as a starter and I want to be a starter and I think I can be. If anything less, I’ll come out of the bullpen and as a freshman I feel like that’d be pretty good still; either way, I definitely have a shot at pitching my freshman year.”