Niggemeyer leads Liberty with arm, bat
In his first season with the Olentangy Liberty High School baseball team, Jacob Niggemeyer already has made his mark with the Patriots -- on the field and on the scoreboard.
The junior, who moved to the school district during the winter after attending Worthington Kilbourne, seems to have a new favorite pastime of hitting the ball off -- or over -- the scoreboard in left-center field during batting practice.
"See below where it says 'Ball.' In the black space below it," said coach Ty Brenning, gesturing to the scoreboard. "See that dent. That's from Jacob taking (batting practice). See those other two dents. Those are from him. He's also hit a couple over the scoreboard.
"I keep asking him when he's coming up with the money for a new scoreboard. He thought I was serious at first."
Niggemeyer, a pitcher and third baseman, has been putting up big numbers on the mound and at the plate for the Patriots, who were 18-7 overall and 9-4 in the OCC-Central Division following a 2-1 loss to Thomas Worthington on May 6.
On April 25 in a 10-2 league win over Marysville, Niggemeyer pitched a complete game and added a pair of two-run home runs.
"Jacob's a tough out because he's a power hitter who's not afraid to take a walk," Brenning said. "And I like our chances every time he takes the mound."
Through 21 games, Niggemeyer was batting .492 (31-for-63) with four home runs, eight doubles, 28 RBI and a .590 on-base percentage. On the mound, the right-hander was 5-1 with 48 strikeouts, 13 walks and one save with a 1.76 ERA in 39 2/3 innings.
"I love pitching. I love being up on the mound and taking control of the game," said Niggemeyer, who throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs in addition to a change-up, slider and curve. "Coach Brenning was talking to me the other day about how hitting and pitching are related. You know as a hitter that if the count is 0-2, you normally will see a high fastball or maybe an off-speed pitch outside the zone. As a pitcher who is hitting, you have a good idea of what's coming."
Niggemeyer committed to Ohio State after his freshman season. He hopes to contribute to the Buckeyes as both a pitcher and hitter, much like 2010 Liberty graduate Josh Dezse.
"I chose to go to Ohio State after my freshman season for a couple of reasons," he said. "It's close to home and I really liked the coaches and the fact that they have two pitching coaches (Mike Stafford and Josh Newman), which is something a lot of schools don't have."
Brenning said Niggemeyer and Dezse are similar players.
"At the same juncture in their careers, Josh was more a thrower and learning to be a pitcher," Brenning said.
"Jacob might not have Josh's velocity, but he has command of his pitches in the bottom of the strike zone. He has four pitches he commands and that can get a lot of high school hitters out."
Moving to a new school district and joining a new team were not simple for Niggemeyer, who said his new teammates have welcomed him and made the transition smoother.
"I've been here four or five months and I'm still getting used to the environment," he said. "These guys (on the team) have been pretty much playing together since their freshman years or U12 (summer baseball)."
Brenning said Niggemeyer has adjusted well.
"Jacob is kind of a freshman in the program because it's a little bit of a different culture you have of coming to another school," Brenning said. "You have different terminology and different philosophies. But I'm very impressed with his baseball IQ."