McCaskey making his mark

Vulcans freshman infielder adding to the special start


Danny Beeck, Editor-In-Chief

“Getting off to a good start builds the confidence of the players, and as a unit, they feel like they have the ability to win games,” head coach of the California University of Pennsylvania baseball team, Mike Conte said. “As individuals perform in their roles, they collectively succeed.”

When Jacob McCaskey began his high school athletic career at Deer Lakes high school in Cheswick, Pennsylvania, he was a dual sport athlete. Competing in both basketball and baseball for the Lancers, McCaskey was exposed to the differences in both sports, and eventually settled on baseball after his freshman year.

“I played basketball and baseball growing up and leaned away from basketball to stick with baseball,” McCaskey said. “I thought I had a future there and I wanted to stick with that. I wanted to work hard at that [baseball], and not have any regrets by doing everything I can to be as good as possible.”

This choice payed off for the freshman infielder for the Vulcans, earning him a starting role in his first game at the collegiate level.

“There was obviously some sort of trust in my abilities, and I’m blessed that he gave me the opportunity to do so,” McCaskey said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous going out there, but I just had to trust in myself that I knew what I was doing, and everything went pretty well.”

“Pretty well” is an understatement to describe McCaskey’s first career start, as he finished 2-4 with three RBI’s (Run Batted In) and a home run that smacked off of the scoreboard in left-center field en-route to a 9-8 victory in eight innings.

“It shocked me probably more than anything,” McCaskey said, with a smile on his face. “It took a big weight off my chest and let me know that I had the ability to play at this level. I was able to settle in and be more comfortable just being myself.”

Since then, McCaskey has contributed to the Vulcans 18-7 record while racking up a .268 batting average and 12 RBI’s on 19 hits. Through 25 games of their season, the Mike Conte led team has had streaks broken up by small hiccups of an occasional loss.

“You always have to prepare yourself for the nature of the sport which is fraught with ups and downs,” Conte said. “There are going to be peaks and valleys and you have to stay mentally on an even keel to get through those.”

The Vulcans are 5-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) after splitting a double header against Mercyhurst on Monday, while also sweeping the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks on the weekend of March 23-24.

“Our pitching staff was phenomenal during those streaks and our hitters backed them up,” McCaskey said. “If our pitching staff shut them out, our offense knew that they had to get the job done. We only had to put up one or two runs because of them, but there were a few games when we put up a lot more.”

Coach Mike Conte’s trust in the young role players on the team is evident, with Patrick Brogan, Louden Conte, Jacob McCaskey, and Anthony Venezia playing in or starting for the Vulcans in all 25 games.

“Because we have excellent leadership within the team, it has created a culture that allows the young players to thrive,” Conte said. “As a group, they have stepped up to do things to help this team win. Whether it is a guy making a play in the field one game, or a guy coming through with a big hit in another, I think there is a wonderful blend of ages on this team.”

McCaskey responds well to intensity, and believes that Conte’s mindset of “loving to win and hating to lose” trickles down to the upperclassmen who reciprocate that same attitude in their game.

“You just want to go out and give everything you have for the guy next to you and for coach,” McCaskey said. “All of the upperclassmen are such great role models. They all have the experience and know what’s going on.”

After collegiate baseball, McCaskey hopes to take his skill with baseball as far as he can.

“Obviously I want to graduate from college, get a degree, and a good job, but I also want to take baseball as far as possible,” McCaskey said. “If it ends at college, then so be it, but I would love to play beyond college if possible. If not, I know I would have my business management degree to back me up. I would love to be able to own a business one day, and to be able to run the show. It would be a lot of fun.”

The Vulcans continue conference play on Friday, April 5, when they hit the road to take on Pitt-Johnstown for a road doubleheader at 1 p.m.