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Shaler grad Potock gains confidence in closer role

| Thursday, June 30, 2016, 10:57 p.m.
Shaler graduate Jacob Potock is playing for the Gaithersburg (Md.) Giants this summer.
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Shaler graduate Jacob Potock is playing for the Gaithersburg (Md.) Giants this summer.

Opponents may never hear the quick joke or soothing words Gaithersburg (Md.) Giants pitcher Jacob Potock has for his infielders.

Instead, batters in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League meet an icy glare when the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Shaler graduate digs in.

“It's a tough situation, I try to help (my teammates) relax and make everyone the best they can be at that moment,” Potock said. “As soon as I step on the rubber and look down at the batter, it looks like I hate you.”

Inspiring fear has been the theme to Potock's summer. Asked to be a closer for the first time, Potock has rebuilt his confidence with the Giants (8-12). Potock has three saves in seven appearances, striking out 14 batters in nine innings.

Too often during his freshman season at West Virginia, Potock felt out of his depth. In three appearances with the Mountaineers, Potock allowed opponents to hit .462 against him in 3 13 innings.

Potock finished with a 8.10 ERA.

“I was mentally weak and didn't have much confidence,” Potock said. “I didn't think my stuff was good. After the WVU season, I decided I was going to be good again. I wanted to be one of the guys next year.”

Potock left an immediate impression with Giants manager Jeff Rabberman. West Virginia left how Potock was utilized up to Rabberman. A performance in an exhibition game landed Potock in the bullpen.

“He was on the edge of being a starting pitcher,” Rabberman said. “He came into an exhibition game with no one out and got out of the inning with no runs. Jake has the makings of a big-time closer in my opinion.”

Being consistent with delivery keeps batters guessing. Utilizing a changeup, curveball and fastball effectively has kept Potock ahead.

“Everything looks the same coming out,” Rabberman said. “He hides the ball, which is what you want. Some pitchers slow down or change their arm angle when their throwing an off-speed pitch.”

Landing in the bullpen, especially as a closer, may have been the best thing that happened to Potock. It forced him to reevaluate his mental approach.

Questioning his abilities wasn't going to help Gaithersburg win games.

“Being a closer is completely mental,” Potock said. “If you're a headcase, you can't be a closer.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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