Sports

Merced County baseball star accepts offer to Pac-12 school. He’s only a sophomore.

Buhach Colony sophomore Jake Sapien delivers a pitch during the Thunder’s 13-5 win over Golden Valley on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
Buhach Colony sophomore Jake Sapien delivers a pitch during the Thunder’s 13-5 win over Golden Valley on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Buhach Colony sophomore Jake Sapien is having quite a week.

Sapien, 16, and his Thunder teammates celebrated a second straight Central California Conference baseball championship on Tuesday with a 13-5 win over Golden Valley. Sapien picked up two hits, drove in three runs and pitched two scoreless innings in relief to help the Thunder finish 11-1 in CCC play.

The clinching victory came just three days after Sapien announced on Twitter that he was verbally committing to accept a baseball scholarship to Stanford University.

“It’s a great offer,” Sapien said. “In the long run it allows me to get a great education and join a great baseball program.”

Sapien, who has a 3.85 GPA at Buhach Colony, isn’t interested in a long, drawn out recruiting process. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound pitcher/infielder had offers from Stanford and Cal. More schools undoubtedly will come calling. Of course, verbal commits are not binding. Sapien can’t officially commit until he signs his national letter of intent during his senior year.

“The stress, that is gone,” Sapien said. “I definitely think I can just work hard and have fun.”

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Buhach Colony sophomore Jake Sapien waits to hit on deck during the Thunder’s 13-5 win over Golden Valley on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Sapien recently verbally committed to accept a baseball scholarship to Stanford University. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Watching Sapien, it’s easy to see why Pac-12 schools are interested.

He’s made eight appearances on the mound this season for the Thunder and he’s 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA. He threw a no-hitter against Hoover in the Fresno Easter Tournament. He’s struck out 36 hitters in 22 innings. He’ll play a bigger role on the mound for Buhach Colony in the next two years.

As a hitter, he’s hitting .397 with one home run, 20 runs scored and 17 RBIs.

Wakefield says college coaches like Sapien as a two-way player with an opportunity to contribute with his arm and his bat.

“He looks the part,” said Buhach Colony coach Greg Wakefield. “He’s got that big body and big arm. He’s got the bat speed and great hands. Coaches love those players with the high ceiling, guys who are already pretty good players, but they’re going to get better.”

According to Sapien, Stanford coaches first saw him pitch in Arizona this past summer.

“I pitched one game,” Sapien said. “I threw five innings and gave up two runs. That’s when they started looking at me. Over the summer I gained some velocity.”

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Buhach Colony sophomore Jake Sapien connects on a base hit against Golden Valley on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Sapien recently verbally committed to accept a baseball scholarship to Stanford University. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

When they eventually offered Sapien a scholarship, he was thrilled.

“It was unbelievable,” Sapien said. “It’s a dream come true.”

At Stanford, Sapien’s pitching coach will be former Merced High star Thomas Eager. Sapien won’t be the first Buhach Colony pitcher Eager has coached. Eager was the pitching coach at Cal when Daulton Jefferies was the Bears’ ace. Jefferies was selected by the Oakland A’s with the 37th overall pick in 2016. He was recently promoted to Double-A after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Sapien will follow in the footsteps of other former Buhach Colony athletes who have gone on to Stanford like Aziz Shittu (football), Brett Mooneyham (baseball) and Rebecca Hammer (track) and Aly Gleason (soccer).

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