01/15/2016 8:20 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – January 15, 2016 – Andrean pitcher Luke Jaksich may only be a senior in high school, but he’s no stranger to the big stage.
Last June, Jaksich took the ball at Victory Field in Indianapolis, starting on the mound with the Class 3A state title on the line. With help from Jaksich’s quality outing, Andrean nipped Jasper to win the second of back-to-back state championships.
“It was honestly breathtaking,” Jaksich said. “When I went out to get the ball, I sat back and looked around for a few minutes to take it all in. I was nervous at first, but it was a great experience. The coaches put trust in me by having me pitch the biggest game.”
Now, Jaksich sets his sight on his senior season, his last year of prep baseball before playing at Division-II Saint Joseph’s in 2017. A summer with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen of the Midwest Collegiate League will help Jaksich bridge the gap between high school and college.
“It’ll get me in the mode of college baseball and allow me to see what it’s like to face tougher competition,” Jaksich said. “I’ll go in there and do what they ask me to do. I know I can perform at the next level, so that’s why I’m looking forward to the summer.”
When Jaksich began his freshman year at Andrean, he stood 5-foot-3 and weighed 200 pounds. However, 59ers coach Dave Pishkur quickly recognized his potential.
“He always had that arm and the brain where you felt that when he matures physically, there would be something really special with him,” Pishkur said. “There were growing pains. His sophomore year, we threw him against Munster and he was awful.”
Ironically, that initial varsity outing featured Jaksich giving up a long home run to former Oilman Joe Jumonville. However, that performance was a turning point for Jaksich, who figured out what it took to compete on the varsity diamond. In 2015, everything seemed to click for the junior, whose signature win was a 2-0 triumph over Penn in which he outdueled Indiana University commit Skylar Szynski.
“By the time the end of the year came around, he was a much better pitcher that he was at the beginning of the year,” Piskhur said. “This year, he’s put on 20 pounds and grown another couple inches. We’re excited to see if he takes another step.”
Saint Joseph’s coach Rick O’Dette projects Jaksich as a guy who could have professional potential when he fills out and physically matures. Jaksich chose Saint Joseph’s after drawing interest from Division-I schools like Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Ball State.
After finishing his junior season with a 9-2 record and 1.54 ERA, Jaksich is ready to embrace a new challenge as Andrean moves up to Class 4A this season. The IHSAA success factor means the 59ers will move up a class after consecutive state titles.
“It’s going to be a lot tougher than 3A,” Jaksich said. “We’re going to be in a sectional with Chesterton, Crown Point and Valparaiso. Our pitching will be off the charts. Our hitting will have to come along, but I think we’ll have a chance to make a run.”
Once that run is complete, Jaksich will reunite with former Andrean teammate Chase Dawson, a freshman at Division-I Valparaiso, during the summer season with the Oilmen.
“Chase and I actually go way back to like tee-ball,” Jaksich said. “We’re been really good friends since we were 5 or 6 years old. It’s weird that we’re going to play with each other again.”