South Allegheny grad Jacobs makes history for Penn-State Behrend
It was nothing new or even surprising to Ryan Jacobs.
It is quite common for Jacobs not to feel like he has his best stuff while warming up before heading to the mound for Penn State Behrend.
It was no different last week against Mount Aloysius.
“Honestly, I wasn't feeling very good,” the 2010 South Allegheny graduate said.
Five pitches in the first inning changed all that.
“I knew it was going to be a good day after that,” Jacobs said.
Actually, it was a perfect day for Jacobs.
Jacobs didn't allow a hit. He didn't allow a walk. He didn't even allow a base runner. And when he struck out Lucas Szymanski on a 2-2 fastball that painted the outside corner, he became the first Penn State Behrend pitcher to throw a perfect game.
“I knew the game was over but I didn't really realize what happened and I was walking off like it was just another game,” Jacobs said. “Everybody started to run out and that's when I exploded and started to scream and celebrate.”
Jacobs (6-0, 1.32 ERA) needed only 69 pitches and 90 minutes to complete his perfect game. Only four of the 21 outs made it to the outfield and this came against a Mount Aloysius team that was hitting over .300 as a team.
“Ryan is a pretty even-keeled kind of pitcher even when he is dealing like he was,” longtime Penn State Behrend coach Paul Benim said. “And he was even kind of emotional after he got that final out.”
The perfect game highlights a stellar four-year career for Jacobs at Penn State Behrend that very well end up as him being the most decorated pitcher in the team's 43-year history.
“We have been spoiled throughout his career because he competes every time he gets the ball,” Benim said. “He has been a really special.”
Jacobs is 26-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 204 1⁄3 innings pitched while striking out 229 during his career. He needs one win, 22 strikeouts and 36 innings pitched over the next month to become the school's all-time leader in those categories.
“He is a really special baseball player,” Benim said.
Along with the perfect game, Jacobs has pitched in some important games for the Lions. As a freshman, he allowed only one run in a complete game victory that sent Behrend to the NCAA Division III tournament. Last year, he was the winning pitcher in the ECAC South championship game.
“We knew he had a high-quality arm and had the ability to compete when we recruited him,” Benim said. “What we thought we knew and what he confirmed immediately is that he is a give-me-the-ball-and-step-aside kind of pitcher. He just comes at you and there is so much to be said about a pitcher who has the ability but also have belief in their ability.”
That belief was instilled in the Port Vue resident early on.
Jacobs routinely played against older kids while growing up whether it was in the Port Vue Athletic Association, The Daily News League or the Pittsburgh Bulldogs of the Western Pennsylvania Elite Baseball League.
“I think that had a lot to do with me being successful,” Jacobs said.
Despite playing on some mediocre high school teams and being injured a portion of his senior year, Jacobs had a 15-6 career record.
“He always had the work ethic and the desire,” South Allegheny coach Mark Suckfiel said. “He has the bulldog mentality every coach loves.”
That mentality instantly transferred to the college game. Jacobs went 7-3 with a 4.00 ERA and 46 strikeouts as a freshman.
“When I made the transition from high school to college I never let it affect me because I have always pitched against players that were older than me throughout my life,” Jacobs said.
It's not like there wasn't work to be done on Jacobs' game.
He had a strong fastball and a biting curve, but it wasn't until he developed a changeup before his senior year that he really started to excel.
“I was pitching more for the strikeout last year,” Jacobs said. “This year I am trying to be more accurate and more consistent and keep my pitch count down.”
Jacobs' strikeouts are down slightly, but his ERA is down dramatically since he incorporated the changeup – 3.28 over his first three years to 1.32 this year. He hasn't allowed an earned run over his last 22 innings pitched.
“He came in as a little bit of a thrower but he has added some pitches including a nasty changeup,” Benim said. “Now that he is added this third pitch it has kept hitters a little more honest.”
But for Jacobs, his baseball career is quickly winding down.
A plastics engineering technology major set to graduate in May, Jacobs has accepted a job with Honda of America Mfg., Inc., in Marysville, Ohio. He starts in June.
“It is either follow your dream or get your career started,” Jacobs said. “I don't let that it affect me that my baseball career may be over but I am sure it will when baseball season is over.”