WASILLA — Jacob Gilbert may not be the biggest guy with the biggest arm. But at every level Gilbert has pitched, the former Wasilla High School baseball standout has found a way to get the job done.
Now, Gilbert has the chance to face a challenge at a new level.
Gilbert recently committed to play for Bryan College, an NAIA program in Dayton, Tennessee.
“I’m so happy for Gilbert. It’s great to see,” Ken Ottinger, the head coach of both the Wasilla High and Wasilla American Legion baseball programs, said.
Ottinger said he has known Gilbert since Gilbert was in the fourth grade, and has coached him for the bulk of that time. Gilbert, a 6-foot-1 and 160-pound right-handed pitcher and 2019 graduate of Wasilla High, is currently in his second season with the Iowa Lakes Community College program. Gilbert threw 20 innings as a freshman during the 2019-20 year before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He fanned 21 hitters and walked only six. Gilbert returned to Alaska, and starred for the Wasilla Road Warriors during the 2020 American Legion summer season.
“He had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. It was great to see,” Ottinger said. “He was missing college baseball and came back wanting to prove something. I was very happy his choice was to play for me for one more summer.”
Ottinger said the big thing he noticed after Gilbert returned from college was an enhanced focus on the mound.
“His focus on each pitch is where he wanted him to be,” Ottinger said.
Ottinger said ball movement is key to Gilbert’s success on the mound. But there is also the mindset.
“The kid does not get frustrated or flustered. It’s just another day in Gilbert’s world,” Ottinger said. “Put him in the biggest and most pressure situations, and it’s just like another day at the ballpark for him.”
Gilbert led Wasilla to the state title game and a runner-up finish. He was also named MVP of the tournament. Gilbert did not allow an earned run over 13 ⅓ innings pitched, and fanned 25 hitters in two starts. Gilbert also led his team with six runs scored and the entire tournament with six stolen bases. He was a standout in centerfield when he was not on the mound.
Gilbert helped Wasilla advance to the Alaska American Legion title game in back-to-back seasons, both 2019 and 2020. In 2019, Gilbert was named first-team all-state in the outfield and as a relief pitcher during the summer legion season. Later in 2019, Gilbert helped Wasilla become the first Alaska team to advance to an American Legion regional final when the Road Warriors played their way to the title game during the tournament in Cody, Wyoming.
Gilbert also helped Wasilla High make school history. Gilbert and the Warriors won a state baseball championship for the first time in 2019.
“It’s awesome to see his success. I can’t wait to see what the next chapters write for him. The sky is the limit for him as long as he puts in the effort on the field in and in the classroom,” Ottinger said. “He’s an all-around great kid.”
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.