After three coaches in four years, Jake Willsey looks to lead baseball to new heights
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After a 2016 campaign that ended in heartbreak at the NCAA regional playoff, the Green Wave baseball team is looking to take it to the next level during the 2017 season. For senior infielder Jake Willsey, his final season is both something to look forward to and an opportunity to look back.
When Willsey discussed his choice to come to Tulane, it all boiled down to opportunity.
“I just wanted to play freshman baseball,” Willsey said. “… I had a bunch of offers that I had to choose from and when I met Coach [Rick] Jones … and his staff, I really felt like they were going to be able to take me to that professional level.”
Former head coach Jones recruited Willsey and many of the veteran Tulane baseball players in 2013. Jones was the head coach for the Tulane baseball team from 1994-2014 and led the Green Wave to two appearances in the College Baseball World Series.
Jones left Tulane in 2014 due to health concerns. David Pierce coached the team for two years before leaving to be head coach at University of Texas. New head coach Travis Jewett is the third head coach Willsey has had during four years at Tulane.
“[It’s been] the biggest adjustment,” Willsey said. “The style is just a lot different and having had to adapt so many times before, it took us a little while.”
Despite the challenges that come with repeated coaching changes, Willsey has persevered. For him, it has been the other players on the roster who make the experience.
“I feel like these teams that I have been a part of have really been unforgettable. It’s the people within them,” Willsey said. “That’s something that has made my decision to come to Tulane one I can look back at fondly.”
For the 2017 season, the Green Wave will need to make up for a lot of lost talent. Catcher Jake Rogers and shortstop Stephen Alemais were both taken in the third round of the MLB entry draft. Three other players got drafted in rounds 10-40. Despite the losses, Jake Willsey is confident in their chances.
“Nobody is going to be the catch-and-throw guy that Jake Rogers was, but Jeremy [Montalbano] is more than adequate on that front,” Willsey said. “At shortstop, we have a couple of freshmen battling and getting better every day, and ultimately, I don’t feel like the drop-off will be as drastic as some people [think].”
Willsey and the rest of the team will also have to rely heavily on the expertise of new head coach Travis Jewett. As an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, Jewett made it to the College World Series two years in a row, winning one championship.
“We just trust that he knows what it takes to get there because he has been there,” Willsey said. “Ultimately, we need to ride his coattails in that way because none of us have been there so we just have to trust that he knows how to get there …”