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Settling into larger role, Jakubowyc hurls Hawks past Patriots with longest, best outing

As Daniel Jakubowyc fired a first-pitch strike to open the bottom of the fifth inning, it represented new territory for the Urbana baseball right-hander.

The junior had made it past the fourth inning for the first time as a varsity starter and, crucially, wasn’t feeling as much wear on his arm as usual. Soon, he was blowing pitches by Thomas Johnson’s hitters, ending that frame on a strikeout.

When he returned to the mound for his sixth and final inning, Jakubowyc fanned two more and ended his outing on a foul out.

“It felt better as I went on,” Jakubowyc said. “In the fourth or fifth inning, I was a little bit tired, but in the sixth, I felt good. I was pumping in the sixth.”

The Hawks needed that start from him, as it led to a 5-1 road win Monday afternoon.

He’s one of many pitchers stepping into significantly larger roles this season for Urbana (9-3), which is replacing all three starters — Keegan Johnson, Eli DeRossi-Cytron and Gavin Allanach — from last year’s state finalist squad. As such, the Hawks are asking more from a big group of young, inexperienced but talented arms to remake their staff.

The results haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been just about as good as coach Mike Frownfelter can ask for.

“The pitching was gonna be the key,” he said. “If we get good pitching, we can win a lot of games. We’re 9-3. For what we lost last year, I’ll take 9-3.”

Jakubowyc is one of two Hawks pitchers — along with Mason Johnson — who entered this season with any starting experience.

He tossed 3 1-3 innings in an April win over South Hagerstown last year, but Jakubowyc otherwise sat back and learned from those ahead of him. When he went to work this offseason, he developed a sharper slider and circle change-up while honing his command.

“I just try to throw strikes, not walk as many people as I can and just pound the zone,” Jakubowyc said.

That change-up has turned into a deceptively nasty out pitch for the righty, and he used it to great effect against the Patriots. He mostly induced weak contact, scattering two hits and striking out seven.

Freshman left-hander Kiegan Rupinta entered to close the game, and he tossed a clean seventh inning. He’s been a valuable reliever for Urbana and is quickly becoming another go-to arm for Frownfelter.

“It’s been a little scary because I’m a freshman, but I’m just locked in, going for strikes,” Rupinta said.

The Hawks will need more of that from those two and several others if they want to keep up this run. The recent rain has done Urbana no favors, as it is in the midst of three consecutive weeks with four games on the docket.

Pitching depth becomes all the more imperative, and Jakubowyc’s start now gives the Hawks more options going forward.

“If he can go out there and get enough innings in, keep his pitch count down, we can eat up some innings,” Frownfelter said. “That’s what we needed, and he did a great job.”

Jakubowyc got just enough run support, too, as Urbana took advantage of some miscues to score five runs across the third and fourth innings.

Evan Zarroli singled in a run, while Connor Roussel and Kayden Lipscomb both had an RBI. Aiden Welch and Christian Petrolle each had bunt singles.

Danny Orr and Nathan Chappell each had a hit for TJ (6-7-1), which saw its four-game winning streak end. Miles Hyatt scored the Patriots’ lone run on a fourth-inning error.

“We just came out flat, and they capitalized,” TJ coach Matt Myers said. “You can’t give good teams outs.”

Though the Patriots managed to get runners on base in all but one inning, Jakubowyc worked around that to grind for outs.

By the time Frownfelter told Jakubowyc to head back out for the fifth inning, the junior made sure his longest start would soon become his best.

“I kinda let him go a little longer than I usually [do] because we’re getting close to that end of the season playoff run, and I wanted to see him go a little extra,” Frownfelter said. “He did a great job.”