Vikings’ Hamm learning a new position

Published 8:32 am Friday, April 1, 2016

Jake Hamm, seen here in action from last season, is learning to play first base for Niles as well as take his turn on the moundy. (Leader photo/File)

Jake Hamm, seen here in action from last season, is learning to play first base for Niles as well as take his turn on the moundy. (Leader photo/File)

There’s great anticipation to a first game of a baseball season.

Niles High School junior Jake Hamm experienced his second varsity season opener Wednesday against Brandywine.

Cool temperatures and some rain didn’t spoil Hamm’s excitement to play.

“You haven’t played baseball for awhile and you’re hyped up to get out there on the field and play your first game,” Hamm said.

“But after you get through the first play, it’s just like any other game.”

Hamm got his season off to a great start as he collected two hits, including a double, and pitched two scoreless innings as Niles blanked Brandywine, 6-0.

“He had a good day and it’s nice to see him get off to a good start,” Niles baseball coach Mike Vota said. “He swung the bat well. He hit mistakes and took advantage of what the pitcher was giving him.”

Vota was really pleased with how Hamm responded to the challenge of playing first base for the first time in his career. As a sophomore, Hamm played right field when he didn’t pitch.

“He has practiced at (first base) this year because we knew we would have to play him at first base when (Jakob) pitches,” Vota said. “He made some great plays at first base and got us out of a couple innings with some of his nice plays over there.

“Jake has good hands, he’s a good athlete and he’s a big target (6-foot-5). He’s not afraid of the baseball. We like our first baseman to chew it up and dig it out and do whatever they have to do. Jake’s that type of kid.”

Hamm is just happy to contribute any way he can to the team.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said about playing first base. “Honestly, wherever they put me at I’m happy to play.”

Hamm wasn’t happy with both of his innings on the mound. He walked the first batter he faced and he needed a great play from center fielder Drew Huffman to escape damage in the inning. Huffman caught a hard hit line drive and threw to first to get a double play.

“The first inning I pitched could have gone a little better for me,” Hamm said. “My confidence wasn’t up there as much as I want it to be. I didn’t think the double play was going to get turned. I thought it was a hit. Drew made a great play.

“In my second inning (pitching) I went out there and did fine. As always, I had my team out there to back me up.”

His coach is also there to back him up and push him to be at his best on the diamond.

“He needs to stay down in the zone when he pitches,” Vota said. “When we face some of the better hitters in

our league Jake has

to make pitches at the knees. Right now, he needs to do some things mechanically. We were able to locate some of those things (against Brandywine) to help him work downhill more.”