On most Sundays during the offseason, College of the Canyons baseball coach Chris Cota took his dog out while he jogged around campus. And most Sundays, Cota could see pitcher Jacob Lopez as he approached the baseball field.
“I’d see him out here playing catch on Sundays,” Cota said. “There’s no doubt that he continued to work hard in the offseason.”
Dedication to his craft in the offseason and steady progression during the season has led Lopez to a spot on the Texas Tech roster and eventually, a possible place in the pros.
He’s upped his fastball speed from 83 mph to 91 mph from his senior year at Saugus to his sophomore year at Canyons, which he attributes to a more serious approach to his training.
The southpaw recorded a whopping 128 strikeouts in 88.2 innings in his sophomore campaign with the Cougars to go with a 1.62 ERA. In six separate game appearances, he logged 10 K’s or more.
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“It’s been the weight room and going to the gym,” Lopez said. “It’s taught me more discipline and it’s helped me with baseball because obviously I had to be stronger.”
Always a competitor, Lopez has also learned to keep an even keel as he’s matured through his time at COC.
The pitcher who was ejected from a game for yelling at a hitter to “get off the plate,” is the same guy who attended his six-year-old sister’s dance recital on Wednesday night.
Between those two scenarios, he’s found a balance.
“He’d get fired up sometimes, then … he’d take a walk at the mound, take a deep breath, ‘Okay I need to get back within myself here,’ and then get back to work,” Cota said. “I think he got pretty good at that.”
John Maggiora, who coached Lopez in his days with the Centurions, saw the hurler’s potential early.
“Everything he throws moves,” Maggiora said. “He’s not just throwing, he’s actually pitching. But he’s a student of the game. You ask him anything about the Dodgers, certain pitchers, he’s sort of a walking encyclopedia. Just a kid that eats and breathes baseball.”
Lopez helped lead COC to an appearance in the first round of the CCCAA Regional Playoffs. The team beat Palomar 5-2 in Game 1, then lost the following two to end the season.
Now, Lubbock awaits. Lopez visited the campus three weeks ago, then signed his letter of intent on April 22.
“They all seemed like really humble and down to earth people,” he said. “So I trusted them and Texas Tech is a really good program. I figured once I go there, they’ll help me become a better baseball player.”
Cota believes that his baseball career won’t stop there.
“I don’t think he’s reached a ceiling,” the coach said. “I think there’s more in there and I think as he matures and keeps learning his body and how to throw a baseball and how to pitch, I think he can get better.
“I think the draft is going to come calling for him.”