Jackson Everman has excelled on the mound for the Hilliard Bradley High School baseball team the last four seasons, but until this spring he hadn't been a key contributor at the plate.
The senior pitcher and shortstop had a .205 batting average and a .262 on-base percentage last season. Through 17 games this season, he was hitting .293 and had a .442 on-base percentage, placing him among the Jaguars' offensive leaders.
"Jackson has been our No. 1 pitcher and has started for us since his freshman season, but this year he has proved that he can hit the ball," coach Matt Gilkerson said.
"He drove in the game-winning run with an infield hit (in a 5-4 victory over Westerville Central on April 25). He has been hitting in the top part of the lineup, and he is one of our best hitters. He can really drive the ball."
With the help of his older brother, Everman dedicated much of last summer to fine-tuning his swing.
"My brother (Quentin, a 2007 Darby graduate who went on to play at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth) looked at my swing over the summer and saw that I was just swinging at the ball," Everman said. "I started working on hitting the ball with authority instead of just swinging.
"My freshman year, I was just nervous at the plate, and in the last two years, I just wasn't hitting in games. I had to figure out why I could hit in batting practice but not in games."
On the mound, Everman had a 2.53 ERA as a freshman and threw a no-hitter in a 12-0 win over Centennial in the second round of the Division II district tournament and a 1.45 ERA as a sophomore.
He went 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 47 innings last year and had a 1.38 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 40 innings through 17 games this season.
"I had (mononucleosis) my junior year and that set me back a full year," Everman said. "I have used my pitching to make me a better hitter. I am recognizing counts and what kind of pitches I can expect. In the past, I didn't do that as much."
In the win over Westerville Central, Everman pitched a complete game, striking out six and allowing four hits and two walks.
"Everything has just gotten smoother over the years as a pitcher," Everman said. "I throw four pitches and have good control of them, but my slider is probably my most effective. I only had a changeup and a curve as a freshman with a decent fastball that I throw anywhere from 83 to 87 mph."
Gilkerson is impressed with Everman's dedication to improving as a hitter.
"No one is ever going to outwork Jackson," Gilkerson said.
"He has worked hard to get better and better. I think it's just confidence more than anything else. He works hard in the cage and comes ready to work in practice.
"Jackson is pitching really well. He struggled last year and his pitches were not as crisp. This year, he has been crisp and focused."