PORT ANGELES — The University of California-Los Angeles, better known as UCLA, will send three baseball commitments to the other Angeles this summer to play for the Port Angeles Lefties.
It’s a similar situation to the summer of 2017, when Port Angeles brought aboard touted shortstop prospect and UCLA commit Kevin Kendall for a summer of West Coast League games before he joined the Bruins.
Kendall racked up All-West Coast League honorable mention for the Lefties, hitting .301 with seven doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and 12 runs, and flashed some defensive brilliance in the field before moving into the starting shortstop position as a freshman with the Bruins the following spring.
“We have a strong history with UCLA players,” Port Angeles owner and head coach Matt Acker said. “We had Jack Stronach with us in Kitsap in 2016 and Kendall in 2017. [UCLA head coach] John Savage recruits the best players in the country, and I’ve liked the UCLA kids I’ve spent time with.”
Stronach was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2019 and Kendall is a junior on the UCLA roster, which is ranked third by Baseball America ahead of the 2021 season.
Acker took Savage’s recommendation on a pair of pitching prospects from Orange County, Calif., athletic powerhouse JSerra Catholic.
“I took on two pitchers because I know they will have life left in their arms, have innings left when they get here, and I also knew who they were as players and people,” Acker said.
“They come from a heck of a high school program, too.”
• Luke Jewett, right-handed pitcher: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jewett throws consistently in the mid-to-low 90-mph range and has been working on upping his velocity.
“He could be a high draft pick, and we could lose him [to professional baseball],” Acker said. “If Savage is telling me he’s a draft risk, I believe him. He probably has a spot in the draft, whether it’s first round or second round, but based on the slot average [the amount of money allotted for each draft pick], I wouldn’t expect him to sign anything past the second round. The scholarship and benefits he would get to play at UCLA would be more valuable.”
• Gage Jump, left-handed pitcher: Jump is exactly what this 5-11, 190-pounder’s fastball does just before crossing the plate.
“He throws about 90-to-93 mph on his fastball and has a big, big curveball. He can vary his speeds on all of his pitches.”
Acker said Jump reminds him of a former MLB pitcher.
“He’s very Tim Hudson-esque, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Acker said of Jump in comparison to Hudson, a 15-season MLB vet.
And Port Angeles will bring aboard Jewett and Jump’s future catcher in Jack Holman of Etiwanda, Calif.
• Jack Holman: The 6-3, 220-pound Holman swings lefty and throws with his right hand. “He can hit, but he’s a plus-defensive catcher,” Acker said.
“[St. Mary’s Nathan] Chong is supposed to be the offensive guy that’s a good catcher for us, and Holman is the defensive-focused catcher that knows what he is doing. He’s a pretty polished player behind the plate.”
Acker outlined why he likes taking UCLA commits as opposed to current Bruin players.
“They are so talented, they could be playing deep into the postseason, and if they make a run to the College World Series, potentially tied up until July,” Acker said. “Even if they have innings left to pitch, we may not get them until later. So I’d rather take the younger kids that can be here earlier and take the ball. And we might get them back for another year before they head off to the Cape [Cod League] or get drafted and are gone.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].