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Pribanic makes Penn St. his destination

Norwin baseball player Jake Pribanic, seated at center, signed his Letter of Intent to play baseball at Penn State in the Norwin High School library on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Joining him at the signing were, seated, his parents, Janet and Tim, and standing, Norwin baseball coach Mike Liebdzinski and athletic director Randy Rovesti. Submitted

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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
 

It was a day that has been more than a year in waiting, but Jake Pribanic now is officially a Nittany Lion.

Pribanic, a senior and a regular starter on Norwin's highly successful baseball teams over the past two seasons, made good on his verbal commitment of more than a year ago by signing his National Letter of Intent on Friday to join Penn State's baseball team for the 2013-14 school year.

While other schools continued to pursue and show interest in Pribanic, who was recruited primarily as an outfielder or first baseman, he said his decision to head to State College never really wavered.

“It feels great to (officially sign). I love it at Penn State; the campus is beautiful. It's where I always wanted to go,” Pribanic said.

“I visited Maryland and got contacted by William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth, but Penn State is where I wanted to go.”

Penn State finished with a 29-27 record last season, and has shown steady improvement in the seven years under head coach Robbie Wine. Pribanic said he hopes to help continue that success, and thinks he could have a shot to contribute earlier, rather than later.

“They lost a fair amount of seniors last year and this year, and said once I get there, I have a good chance to start,” Pribanic said. “Mainly for my hitting, I'll have a chance to play all four years.”

Hitting is one of Pribanic's biggest strengths as a player, and he has accumulated 30 RBI and a .342 batting average for Norwin's varsity team.

Where he most caught the eye of college scouts wasn't in a Knights uniform, however, but it was with elite teams such as the EvoShield Mid-Atlantic Canes and the Renegades of Johnstown's All-American Amateur Baseball Association. With those teams, Pribanic competed against some of the top players his age, and in Johnstown, against current college players during the high school offseason.

“A lot of kids you play at those tournaments (with the Canes) are kids that are going to be playing at Division I schools,” Pribanic said. “There are kids that are going to be playing at Ole Miss, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech — a lot of top Division I schools — and that environment really prepares you for college baseball.”

Pribanic has put in plenty of work to get ready for college baseball, but he also has access to some firsthand advice with the high number of former Norwin players that currently are on Division I rosters, including five that graduated earlier this year.

“I just talked to (2012 graduate and Connecticut freshman) Max McDowell a few weeks ago,” Pribanic said.

“He said everything's been real busy, and the workouts they do, he's never worked so hard in his life. They really own your time. It's tons of fun, but it's difficult.”

Now that his commitment is official, Pribanic can settle in for the rest of his senior year at Norwin, which will include the Knights' baseball season this spring. With the college search behind him, Pribanic will have one less thing to worry about on the diamond.

“(Signing) takes off a lot of pressure,” he said.

“A lot of kids are still looking at colleges, and a lot of the bigger college are done recruiting. It's nice to have it out of the way and not have the pressure of trying to get noticed.

“I think this high school season, we'll do just fine. We have a lot of good returning players, and we played well in the fall. I think we'll continue winning and continue building a program.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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