Upper Arlington baseball coach Sam Clark wasn't sure where Jake Leve would fit into the Golden Bears' lineup this season, but it never was a question of whether Leve belonged.

"He can play some third (base), he can play at second, he's caught in the past and I have no doubt he can play in the outfield because he can get to any ball," Clark said. "We know what Jake can do, but graduating 10 seniors like we did, we lost so much. It became a matter of moving him around based on what our younger guys were able to do."

Leve, a senior and Ashland recruit, said he was happy to sacrifice for his younger teammates instead of the reverse.

"I'm a team player," said Leve, who estimated he had played every position except first base and shortstop the past few years. "There are some young guys who need some more reps and if we really need help at a certain position, I am glad to fill in. I am just trying to be as selfless as possible. Whatever is best for the team."

Leve was coming off a junior season in which his .271 batting average, three home runs, 17 RBI and 30 runs scored helped the Golden Bears to their best season in 16 years. UA went 21-10 overall and 13-2 in the OCC-Central Division to win its first league championship since 2003, won its first district title since 2010 and fell one win shy of its first state tournament berth since 1990.

The Bears lost to Hilliard Darby 5-3 in a Division I regional final and, like all other spring teams, lost out on a chance to improve on that this year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Leve joined varsity about a third of the way through his sophomore season and batted .321 with 15 RBI. According to Clark, who coached Leve at lower levels and became varsity coach before the 2019 season, that was no accident.

"The way he carries himself with routine and nutrition, he is years ahead of where most high school seniors are," Clark said. "When we went on our spring break trip last year to Tennessee, every single time I saw Jake, he had a healthy snack, a nutritious snack with him -- pre-lift, post-lift, before practice, after practice. He was a junior at the time and planning his day that far in advance. You don't see a lot of high school kids doing that. It's what we talk about, it's what we preach as coaches, but a lot of time we have to push them to do that. He was doing that on his own."

Leve, who earned second-team all-league honors last year, fulfilled a longtime dream of playing in college when he committed to Ashland on Oct. 5. By then, he was busy succeeding in another sport, as he was the football team's starting quarterback.

He proved to be a dual threat in the Bears' run-oriented offense, rushing for 314 yards and five touchdowns on 73 carries and completing 25 of 39 passes for 417 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. UA finished 6-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Central, tying Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson for its first league championship since 2008.

"Agility, football and mechanics-wise, both sports help each other," Leve said. "The summer workouts for football helped me with baseball. The bottom line for me is (that) just being an athlete helps with athleticism."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave