Trib HSSN Baseball Player of the Week: Hopewell’s Jake McGovern
By: Don Rebel
Sunday, April 7, 2019 | 9:51 PM
Forty years ago, Hopewell captured its first of their WPIAL baseball championship by winning the 1979 Class AAA crown.
They added district titles again in 2000 and ’10.
Could the Vikings be in store for another golden season this spring?
Jake McGovern has played a big part in the good start for Hopewell, which split its four games in South Carolina before returning home to win its first two Section 2-3A contests. The junior is a throwback of sorts to the pre-specialization time, when the changing of seasons meant the changing of sports for young athletes.
“Even being a three-sport athlete, he’s always training, working on strength and speed,” Hopewell coach Mike Shuleski said. “In baseball, the talk is of five-tool athletes, and he’s working hard to be put into that category.”
Hopewell opened section play Wednesday against Beaver Falls, and there were mistakes aplenty during a 9-7 Vikings victory in which McGovern allowed two earned runs in 52/3 innings pitched.
“I felt he pitched much better than the score showed,” Shuleski said. “The miscues behind him added pitches to a few innings and of course added baserunners. He kept his composure, held runners well by mixing up his looks and was able to throw three pitches for strikes.”
Not only was McGovern the winning pitcher, but he had a big day at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles, a home run and four RBIs.
“He was huge for us,” Shuleski said. “The past two years he’s been our leadoff, and we’ve asked him to see pitches and get deep into counts. Now that he’s moved to the three-spot in the order, he’s able to use that mentality to be selective and hit mistakes hard to all fields.”
He followed that big game with another successful one Saturday against Ellwood City by going 3 for 3 with a run scored, an RBI and another double.
“He’s put in the work both during the season and during the offseason and has become a very difficult out,” Shuleski said. “Physically, his opposite-field power has impressed me this year. He has shown power from gap to gap, and if there are two strikes on him, he’s able to see pitches and wait for a mistake.”
McGovern is not just contributing at the plate, with a .529 average, and on the mound — Shuleski said his arm and defense in center field have been outstanding.
“Against Ellwood City in the bottom of the second with us leading 3-0, Ellwood tagged a runner from third with good speed on a routine fly ball to center field. Jake threw him out by a step. He made that throw look routine when it shouldn’t have been.”
Shuleski said McGovern has done what is expected of him on the mound this season but has been a pleasant surprise at the plate.
“I think so far he has exceeded (expectations) at the plate. His ability to move from the leadoff spot to the three-spot has been fairly seamless. Pitching wise, the way he threw towards the end of last season showed what to expect this year.”
Hopewell has jumped to the top of the Section 2-3A standings with somewhat high expectations.
“It’s still very early in the season, and we’ve faced two good teams in Beaver Falls and Ellwood City. We will have a couple more big tests this week. So far, I’m happy with how our arms have looked and how we have been able to generate offense 1-9 in the batting order. Tyler Beck, last year’s starter at shortstop, had to make the move to catcher and has made a potential weakness for us into a strength. I’m happy with where we are at for the beginning of April.”
Nick Rispoli, Shaler
It was a big week of nonsection wins for Shaler as it swept past Seneca Valley, Butler and Plum thanks to the hitting and pitching of junior Nick Rispoli. He was a combined 5 for 11 in the three games with three extra-base hits and three runs scored. He also was the winning pitcher in the 4-3 victory over Butler in which he struck out 11 in 61/3 innings pitched for his third victory in three starts this season.
Aaren Putt, Greensburg Salem
If you drive for show and putt for dough, then this Greensburg Salem junior is all money. Yes, the saying is for golf, but Aaren Putt did come up big for the Golden Lions last week in three wins. Putt was 6 for 10 with four runs scored and four runs driven in as Greensburg Salem knocked off Southmoreland, East Allegheny and Highlands by a combined score of 37-1 to reach 5-0.
Gavin Wooley, Neshannock
In a game between two historic coaches — Dan Oliastro for Riverside and Mike Kirkwood for Neshannock — who have combined for 10 WPIAL championships, six PIAA titles and more than 1,000 victories, it was a sophomore pitcher who stole the show. Gavin Wooley pitched his second no-hitter of the season, allowing only two walks and striking out eight as the Lancers remained undefeated with a 12-0 whitewash of the Panthers.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.