Former Trojan off to fast start for college team

Spending your freshman year of college a 16-hour drive from familiar surroundings isn’t for everyone.

Jacob Cantleberry, who now throws heat in the Texas heat, has no complaints.

Cantleberry, twice honored as the Daily Journal’s All-County Baseball Team Player of the Year while pitching for Center Grove High School, is part of the starting rotation at San Jacinto College-North in Houston, Texas.

“I like it here a lot,” Cantleberry said. “The baseball is awesome down here. Texas (junior college) baseball is a lot different than JUCO baseball everywhere else. And the weather is great, too.”

Basking in the exposure provided by playing for one of the nation’s premier junior college programs, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander owns a 5-1 record and 1.22 earned-run average.

Cantleberry has worked 37 innings and made the most of them, with 47 strikeouts against just 21 walks. On March 2, he yielded two hits and fanned 10 batters in the Gators’ 8-2 victory at Wharton County. A week later, in a 6-1 win against Galveston, he worked seven shutout innings, striking out a career-high 13 while giving up just three hits.

In February, he was named NJCAA D-I Pitcher of the Week after throwing a no-hit, six-strikeout gem in a 9-0 shutout of Midland College.

“Jacob has done very well for us. He threw the no-hitter against Midland, which was a wonderful day for him,” said San Jacinto North coach Tom Arrington, who in 16 seasons has guided the Gators to four runner-up finishes in the NJCAA World Series.

“He is very talented, works very hard and we’re blessed to have him.”

San Jacinto North, which has qualified for a record 23 NJCAA World Series, possesses a reputation for outstanding pitching that dates back many years.

The list of current or former Major League Baseball players from San Jacinto North includes seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens (North) and former New York Yankees ace Andy Pettitte (North), a five-time World Series champion.

Washington Nationals right-hander Matt Albers is a former Gators pitcher, as is Jesse Crain, a reliever who played for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox prior to retiring after the 2013 season.

In 2014, six of Arrington’s players were selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.

The Gators’ pitching coach is Houston native Woody Williams, who played for four Major League Baseball franchises between 1993 and 2007. As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, he was a member of the National League All-Star Team.

Cantleberry, whose fastball now tops out at 92 miles per hour, credits Williams with helping him with his pitching mechanics and mindset.

“Woody has helped me learn how to make my pitches and delivery more consistent over my starts,” Cantleberry said. “Learning to be more consistent is what separates players and makes them more efficient.”

Cantleberry tales

Name: Jacob Cantleberry

Age: 19

Born: Indianapolis

Family: Parents Rick and Connie; sisters Devin and Riquel

Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”

Favorite food: Greek

Favorite movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Favorite athlete: Trevor Bauer

Favorite team: Cleveland Indians

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.