12/30/2014 2:39 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Dec. 30, 2014 – Although the sample size was small, Oilmen fans liked what they saw from Portage graduate Kevin Jones during the 2014 season.
They’ll get to see more of him in 2015, as the Northern Illinois right-handed pitcher has signed to play another summer with Northwest Indiana.
Jones made four appearances in 2014, tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing only two hits. He struck out nine, but issued six walks. Jones joined Larry Crisler, Andrew Jackson and Danny Pobereyko as the only players in Oilmen history to play for the team before beginning their college careers.
“If he throws strikes, he’s going to be tough to beat,” Northern Illinois assistant coach Todd Coryell said. “He could be a starter, or he could be a reliever, it’s kind of up to him.”
If Jones has his way, it’s no secret that his preferred role is in the starting rotation. He posted a 5-2 record to go along with a 2.15 earned run average as a senior at Portage. As a junior in high school, Jones pitched Portage to its first sectional title since 1995.
While many players are attracted to the Oilmen based on proximity, the team’s loyal fan base and the beauty of Oil City Stadium, the driving force behind Jones’ decision to return is the team’s winning history. Northwest Indiana has reached the Midwest Collegiate League playoffs in each of the team’s first three seasons.
“I’m more relaxed and everybody is having fun when the team is playing well,” Jones said. “I like the winning tradition with the Oilmen.”
Jones will be joined on the 2015 roster by NIU teammate Joe Jumonville.
“That will be good because he’s a catcher, and having a pitcher-catcher relationship in the summer is nice,” Jones said.
The chances of Jones becoming a starting pitcher have increased this fall, as he’s added a fourth pitch, a slider.
Coryell recruited Jones based partly on a recommendation from former Miami of Ohio coach Ben Bachmann, who is currently the assistant athletic director at Portage. Jones was a member of the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program, furthering Coryell’s interest in recruiting the former Portage pitcher.
“He’s matured a little bit since coming to college, which most freshmen do,” Coryell said. “They figure out that the fastball at the belt doesn’t work like it did in high school. He took his lumps early, but has responded well the second half of the fall and into the winter. His ability to throw strikes and quality strikes will dictate the number of innings he gets.”