2019 CRCBL Pitcher of the Year -- Chase Lee
Date: Aug 13, 2019
By Matt Cohen
Before playing with the Bethesda Big Train in the summer of 2018, Jacob Southern had never heard of the Cal Ripken League.
Southern is from Mount Dora, Florida, and plays for Jacksonville University. He first heard about the league from his catching coach at Jacksonville, Rich Wallace.
Wallace is friends with Bethesda Big Train manager Sal Colangelo, and it was Wallace who told Southern he should go play for Bethesda.
After his 2018 summer with the Big Train, Southern was asked by Big Train manager Sal Colangelo if he wanted to come back. But Southern didn’t know he was going to play with Bethesda again until his 2019 season with Jacksonville University was already underway.
Southern’s goal was to get drafted in 2019. Colangelo asked Southern if he wasn’t selected, would he like to comeback to Bethesda?
“I said ‘Of course.’” Southern said. “I had a great time here. It’s a great facility, great atmosphere, you have fun.”
Southern had a rough start to his junior season, and he began to lose hope for the Draft. It was in that moment that he knew we would come back to Bethesda.
With the Big Train, Southern has emerged as one of the league’s most productive hitters over the first half of the season. He has been a key piece of the Bethesda team that has begun to separate from the rest of the CRCBL.
Southern helped Bethesda jump ahead of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts early on as part of a 15-5 win Thursday night. Bethesda increased its overall lead in the standings to four games with the victory.
Southern drove in the first run of the game with a double in the first inning, extending his league leading RBI total to 24.
Two innings later, Southern crushed a home run off the base of the fire station beyond the left field wall. It was his sixth home run of the year, adding to his league leading home run and RBI total.
He finished the game with four hits, two RBIs and a triple shy of the cycle. He added three runs scored of his own as Bethesda piled on 15 runs on just 12 hits.
At the midway point of the season, Southern is at the front of the MVP race. He is hitting .333 with the league leading six home runs and 25 RBIs. He has walked 16 times compared to 14 strikeouts. His nine doubles top the league by three over the next closest hitter.
“I’m just looking to drive the ball no matter what count I’m in,” Southern said of his approach. “React to pitches, not just look for a certain pitch.”
It’s success that’s come from the momentum he built over the second half of his college season. But even he didn’t predict the production he’s had with the Big Train this summer.
Southern turned his junior season around after the slow start, closing the season strong and carrying the momentum into the summer. But this summer, Southern is focused on just enjoying every at bat.
“Just have fun,” Southern said. “It’s definitely more loose. You’re not as tense in any situation. Even if it’s a tense situation in the game you’re not nearly as tense as you are during the spring.
Southern knows his mindset, being loose and having fun, have been key parts of the success he's had at the core of the Big Train order.
The 2-2 start to the season was out of the typical routine of a Big Train team that has been at the top of the league each summer in the Cal Ripken League.
But once Colangelo’s team gelled together, it ascended to the top of the league and quickly pulled away from the rest of the league in the standings.
After its win over Silver Spring, Bethesda leads the CRCBL in team batting average at .276 and team ERA at 3.56. Its team ERA is over 1.5 runs better than the next closet team. It’s the most complete team statistically at the midway point in the summer.
With his bat, Southern plays a key role in what has been the league’s best offense, and behind the plate he calls the game for what has been the league’s best pitching staff.
He’s been the all-around piece for the league’s best all-around team. Thus far, he's been the MVP.