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CAPTAIN HOOK: Karns City Will Look to Jacob Jones and His Top-Notch Curveball to Be the Staff Ace This Season

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Jacob Jones is never afraid to throw it.

The first pitch of an at-bat. An 0-2 count. A 2-0 count. Even on a full count, Jones will snap off his knee-buckling curveball.

It’s the best pitch in the Karns City junior’s growing repertoire and it helped him make a big impact last season as a sophomore.

He’s hoping it will take him to an even higher level this spring.

“If I’m feeling it that day and I’m hitting my spots with it, I feel like I can throw it in any situation,” Jones said. “I’ve been playing travel since I was younger, so I’ve been throwing it since I was around nine. I’ve progressively tweaked it and kind of got a good feel for it.”

The curve makes all of his other pitches even more potent.

Jones also has good command of his hook, his four-seam fastball, as well as the slider and changeup he has been developing.

Jones went 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA last season for the Gremlins. In 38⅓ innings, he struck out 47 and walked just nine. He also had two saves and opponents batted a meager .159 against him.

It was a dynamic debut for the right-hander, who was the perfect complement to ace Mallick Metcalfe.

“Coming in as a 10th grader, we didn’t know what to expect because we just don’t see these guys play a lot because they play travel ball,” said Karns City coach Josh “Sluggo” Smith. “His better-than-average curveball — it doesn’t matter if they know it’s coming, it’s hard to adjust to. His velocity is getting better. He’s a rat in the gym. He works hard. He gets himself in shape. He should have a monster year.”

The Gremlins are certainly counting on that with Metcalfe gone.

Metcalfe was 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA last season.

Jones is ready to take up the mantle of the staff ace.

“Mallick was our guy. He was a dog out there,” Jones said. “He went in and ate innings up and I’m just trying to do that this year.”

Jones has the potential to do so.

It’s rare for such a young pitcher to have such command, but Jones showed last season that he was savvy beyond his years on the mound.

He excelled in pressure situations, mostly because he was willing to do what was needed to be done to get the tough outs. Didn’t matter how.

“I just want to be efficient for my team, just throw strikes,” Jones said. “If you don’t throw strikes, it’s gonna be hard to win that at-bat and win that game. You have to start out ahead.”

Smith said Jones understands how to pitch. 

Those intangibles are difficult to teach.

“If he gets down in the count, who cares?” Smith said. “If you take 10 mile an hour off and throw it over the heart of the plate — it’s high school hitters, it’s high school baseball. They say seven out of 10 times professionals fail. It’s probably less than that in high school. If you walk a guy in high school baseball, odds are he’s coming around to score. It’s hard to hit a couple of guys in, but if you walk a couple of guys, it’s simple.

“He can get away with taking some off and throwing it over the plate because of his movement,” Smith said. “We talked about his curveball — it doesn’t have to be nasty every time. He can just dump it in for a strike and it’s effective.”

Jones was also a strong hitter, batting .312 to rank second on the team.

He’s one of a young nucleus of players on the Karns City roster who are returning after a 16-8 campaign in 2023. 

The Gremlins fell to Redbank Valley in the District 9 Class 2A championship game last season, won a PIAA playoff game, 2-1 over Seton LaSalle, before falling to eventual state champion Bald Eagle, 6-0.

“We lost some seniors who are hard to replace,” Smith said. “Not that we are gonna be underdogs, but I’ve heard people ask, ‘How are you going to replace that?’ Well, we have animals. We have guys who are savages and who just want to go get it.”

Jones is certainly one of them.

“We still have a good team,” Jones said. “I think we can still do a lot of good things this year.”