Jacob Hawkins didn't hit his stride until his senior season, but once he did, he became the No. 1 pitcher on the Community Vikings' pitching staff for much the district slate.
Having made such a progression on the mound, Hawkins hit the radar of the University of Pikeville, where he recently signed his letter of intent to continue his baseball career.
"Jacob is one of those that was kind of a late bloomer. We got him as a freshman and he was in a situation where he had to pitch varsity games right off the bat. He didn't really get a chance to grow into being a high school pitcher, but he's a kid that has done it on his own and really worked and put in the time to get bigger, faster and stronger," Community coach Robbie Davis said.
Hawkins was so impressive to the coaching staff that he figures to fit into the roster right off the bat as a freshman and Davis thinks he'll provide an immediate impact once he's able to get the needed work in a college weight room environment.
"Starting his senior year, he was our No. 1 for most of the year. I really think he's one of those kids that once he gets into the right system-and I think he's made a great choice with the program he picked-by the time it's all said and done, he could be a Friday-Saturday guy," Davis said.
For Hawkins, signing with the University of Pikeville was the perfect fit as being the closest school he garnered interest from.
"It's the closest offer I got, even though it's still six hours away and it's NAIA-a four-year school that hopefully can get me to the next level," Hawkins said.
While COVID protocols may have prevented traditional recruiting standards for much of the past year, Hawkins got to visit the campus and was able to pitch a bullpen and get a typical tour of the campus-just reinforcing the decision he made.
"I did get to visit the campus. The coach wanted me to come throw a bullpen and one of the guys showed me around the campus," Hawkins added.
He made his living as one of the top arms in the Vikings' rotation, which was the direct result of the competition in a roster chalked full of pitching talent.
"I think its one of those things that with that senior group, there were a lot of pitchers in that group. The competition to be at the top of the rotation was going on for two or three years, and then we had the year we missed," Davis said.
While the decision ultimately rests with the Bears' coaching staff, Davis thinks Hawkins can provide immediate support and eventually become one of the top arms in the rotation, much like he did at Community.
"I think they kind of see him as a mid-week guy or maybe a bullpen guy. The coaches up there are really excited about him. He's one of those that when you see him on the mound, you don't realize how good his stuff is until you get in the box. His velocity has gotten so much better. There were several times where he was pushing 90 (MPH). In a college weight room, he should really be able to flourish," Davis said.
"The coach talked to me about being a weekend starter, but not quite conference games yet, but building myself up where I could throw harder and possibly get to play conference games," Hawkins said.
Hawkins also added that the support from the Bears' staff and long-term vision just reinforced his decision that led him to Pikeville.
"That means a lot to me. It means a lot that they're looking at me for the future and using me as a freshman," Hawkins said.
As far as academics go, Hawkins plans to pursue a degree in sports medicine and work in the physical therapy field, before possibly returning to Shelbyville for his professional career.
With his senior season in the books, Hawkins said his favorite memory was being part of a senior class that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic after having his junior season canceled, which fueled the growth and success of the Viking seniors in 2021.
"My favorite memory was just the whole senior season. By the time of our senior year, we really started building together as a team and became a real family. We had a 20-plus win season our senior season," he said.
For now, the countdown is on for Hawkins until he reports to Pikeville to begin his collegiate career.
"I report to campus on August 18 and the coach told me the first week, we don't do anything. Then the second week it's all workouts up till winter break and then after that it's all baseball," he said.