Jonathan Alder’s Marlee Jacobs delivers a pitch during a 2019 Division II tournament game. Jacobs was part of a Lady Pioneer squad that captured a state championship a year ago.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
The 2019 softball season saw Jonathan Alder’s Marlee Jacobs accomplish a feat not too many freshmen are able to do.
Entering the pitching circle as a first-year high school player, she helped lead her team to a state championship.
Jacobs handled the bulk of the pitching chores last year when the Lady Pioneers posted a 30-1 record and captured the Division II state title.
She hurled 144 2/3 of the team’s 188 innings and posted a 24-1 record.
Alder’s lone loss of the campaign came at the hands of North Union.
Jacobs finished with a 1.50 earned run average, fanned 129 batters and issued just 41 walks.
Despite all of her accomplishments, there is a major disappointment this spring.
The Lady Pioneers won’t have the opportunity to defend their title due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we would have had a great chance of getting back to the state tournament,” said Jacobs. “We were going to have two new starters at catcher and second base, but other than that, we were going to be a veteran team.
“I also think we could have had a good chance of repeating as state champions,” she said. “It would have been hard, but I think we could have done it.”
Although Jacobs posted impressive numbers in the circle for a first-year varsity player, she is quick to pass along a lot of the credit to others.
“I had a great team around me,” she said.
Team stats support her statement.
Third baseman Jillian Jakse cracked 15 homers and drove in 56 runs while batting .527.
Shortstop Emily Walker hit .443, outfielder Lindsey Potter finished with a team-leading 23 stolen bases, outfielder Cierra Clark hit .330 and first baseman Kelsey McDonald finished at .324.
They each would have played their senior seasons this spring.
The Lady Pioneers supported Jacobs with a .402 batting average and a .460 on-base percentage.
Although Jacobs was just a freshman during the 2019 campaign, she showed remarkable poise in the circle.
She said her maturation process came during the team’s spring break trip to Florida.
“After our trip last year, I really didn’t feel like a freshman,” she said. “We quickly bonded well.”
Jacobs did not appear to have much in the way of freshman jitters as she faced batters who were two and three years older.
There actually was one point in the season during which she felt a little tense.
“It came during the game against Philo in the regional semifinals,” said Jacobs.
The Lady Pioneers held a 7-3 lead in the sixth inning before Philo’s Maiah Bell ripped a grand slam homer to tie the battle.
“That was a little scary,” admitted Jacobs. “Jillian, though, came back with a home run, so it was all good.”
Jonathan Alder won that game 10-7 along the way toward its state championship.
JA eventually defeated Lakewood, 4-2, to claim its first state softball crown.
“This year’s seniors are my favorites,” said Jacobs. “We were a very close team and our seniors had been to the state tournament the past few years.
“We were determined to get back to the state and it’s sad we couldn’t play this year,” she said. “We had no idea the state championship game would be the last time we’d all play together as a team.”
Jacobs also credits the JA coaching staff for her softball growth.
“We spent a lot of time during practices preparing for what could come along during the season,” she said. “Our coaches focused on us having a strong mental approach to the game.”
Although Jacobs’ sophomore season has been wiped out, she has been staying in condition by working out at home.
“My dad and I have been working on pitching and hitting four or five days a week,” she said. “I just want to be ready in case we have a summer travel ball season.”
Jacobs, who hit .409 and drove in 25 runs for JA last year, plays for the Ohio Lazers Black squad.
She said she hasn’t yet heard whether there will be a summer season due to COVID-19.
If not, Jacobs hopes the Lazers can play during a fall season in a few months.
“We get in about 30 games during the fall,” she said. “I pitch in about half of them and DH in others.”
Even if there are no summer or fall games, Jacobs said she will continue to work hard on her game.
“I just want to be ready for my junior season,” she said.
Jacobs said she has also begun to explore the possibility of pitching at the next level.
“I’ve started to look at some colleges, but I still have to figure out what I want to do,” she said.
For now, however, Jacobs is going through her days just like every other high school student-athlete.
She’s working her way through on-line classes for the remainder of the academic year.
“Classes are going well,” she said. “I work on school stuff for two to three hours per day, depending on how much home work I have.
“I then exercise and work on softball the rest of the time.”
Jacobs said it’s strange not to be in an actual classroom, while still being responsible for her academic work.
“We’re not in school, but we’re still doing school work and we can’t play softball,” she said. “This just stinks.”
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