By: Devin Smith
Coming in as a freshman last season, Jake Harrell was far from certain on what his future as a Trojan would be.
“I didn’t really know what to expect as a freshman coming into Division I,” said Harrell. “Then I finally got my bearings, started hitting better and just getting a better feel for all of it. The main thing for me was just catching up to the speed of the game; it didn’t take long for me to get put in my place.”
Harrell played high school ball at Rehobeth, a 5A wiregrass school that isn’t very far from Dothan. He received all-state honors his junior year and an all-state honorable mention his senior year. Being a local guy, he had the advantage of knowing a few other players on the team prior to joining the Trojans.
“When I first got on the field I didn’t know anybody,” said Harrell. “But I went to school with Jo-El (Bennett) for a while and I graduated with (Hunter) Skipper. So we just stuck together for a while and felt everybody out until we got a feel for what was going on. It was a big help.”
Even after missing the entire fall with a hand injury, Harrell caught on quickly and by the end of the season was playing more like an upperclassman than a freshman.
He finished seventh on the team with 34 hits last season, but 68 percent of his hits came in the final 23 games of the season, including a great series at Louisiana-Lafayette with the season hanging in the balance. Even with his strong finish, Harrell is far from satisfied with his game.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I feel like I need to raise my average a little bit, base running is a big thing. You know in high school they have that courtesy runner rule so I never really ran bases, then I got here and I looked pretty foolish. So that’s a big area, but we’re working on it.”
Under ASA/FED and some other rules sets, the pitcher and catcher are eligible for a courtesy runner if they get on base. The courtesy runner must be someone who has not yet played in the game, and once they run for either the pitcher or the catcher, that is the only position they can run for again. It does not count as a substitution for either the pitcher/catcher or courtesy runner and anyone who has been used as a courtesy runner is still an eligible substitute for any position.
Harrell has high expectations not only for himself, but for his team. They are all aware of last season’s shortcomings, but optimistic about their opportunity to come back strong this year.
Well, last year was kind of a disappointment.” said Harrell. “But we’re pretty confident about this season. We don’t have expectations, but we do have goals. We want to win the conference, go to regionals, super-regionals, stuff like that. And I feel like we have a good enough team to do that this year.”
Although Troy finished seventh in the Sun Belt conference standings with a 28-30 (14-16) record, Harrell’s play was a possible sign of good things to come. Last season Harrell had three homeruns, a batting average of .286 and 24 RBIs.