Prep Baseball: Turner's smarts earn him All-Area Player of the Year
The best athletes, regardless of sport, often are credited with making their teammates better.
“When he’s on the hill, the whole team just knows we’re going to win,” teammate Chris Olson said. “We play solid (defense), we hit better — I don’t know how, but we just have a better mindset on the game overall.”
East coach John Rudolph saw that transpire early in the season. The Greyhounds were a different team with their ace atop the mound slinging curveballs. During a season-opening trip to Rochester, Minn., Rudolph told them: “We have to play for our other pitchers like we play for Jake.”
The Greyhounds responded to the challenge, and the result was a postseason run that nearly ended at the program’s first state tournament since 2007.
Turner is the News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year after thriving despite a steady diet of Class AAA challengers his senior year. So overwhelming was the wiry right-hander that he finished each of the eight games he started while going 6-2 with a barely perceptible 1.17 ERA.
Not bad for an overwhelming pitcher that initially underwhelmed Rudolph as a youngster. He was too small, Rudolph reasoned. That changed, though, thanks to a growth spurt between Turner’s sophomore and junior years. He became more confident and continued to hone his craft.
“I just wanted to pitch varsity baseball, and I worked at it, trying to get better and better,” the 6-foot-1, 155-pound Turner said.
Turner’s game isn’t predicated on pumping fastballs past hitters. He’s more a finesse guy, a pitcher’s pitcher, intent to work the corners, change speeds and rely on a knee-buckling curveball. He has hit 83 mph on the radar gun, a number that should improve as he begins his college career at St. Scholastica. Still, Turner never has needed overpowering gas to get hitters out.
His curve, a solid changeup and a developing slider allowed him to strike out 54 and walk 19 in 54 innings this spring. Turner’s first three starts were two-hitters and a no-hitter against rival Duluth Denfeld on May 10.
“He’s just a big, crafty righty,” Olson said simply when asked what makes Turner tick.
When asked who Turner most reminds him of, Rudolph said no former Greyhounds were similar — his best hurlers in the past were flamethrowers — but a pair of Hall of Famers came to mind. Sandy Koufax and Greg Maddux, Rudolph said, were pitchers who used intelligence as much as raw stuff to win games.
“They changed speeds and location, and that’s what Jake’s about,” said Rudolph, who retired after the season.
When he wasn’t pitching, Turner played second base and was part of what Rudolph called the “best defensive infield in the state,” which included Olson at first base, Wes Anderson at shortstop and Nick Andersen at third. For good measure, Turner had a .293 batting average and drove in nine runs.
The kid they call Snake — because of his penchant for wiggling out of jams, perhaps? — nearly pitched East to the state tournament, but a 3-2 loss to Elk River in the Section 7AAA finals ended the Greyhounds’ season.
Turner is pitching for the Duluth Lakeview American Legion team this summer before St. Scholastica coach Corey Kemp gets his hands on him in the fall.
Olson, headed to St. Thomas, knows the strategy he will utilize if he has to bat against Turner in college.
“Hit the first fastball you see, because you’re not going to hit anything else,” Olson joked.
News Tribune Baseball Players of the Year
Year Player School
2014 Jake Turner Duluth East
2013 Kevin Folman Hermantown
2012 Jake Lewis Proctor
Ben Nelson Proctor
2011 Mickie Keuning Duluth East
2010 John Skrbec Grand Rapids
2009 Skyler Murray Duluth East
2008 Gabe Wood Grand Rapids
2007 Dean Bauers Duluth Central
2006 Kiel Fechtelkotter Northwestern
2005 Jake Lambert Barnum
2004 Josh Mathson BEST
2003 Brandon Swartz Hermantown
2002 Ben Grams Duluth East
2001 Dan Mell Nashwauk-Keewatin
2000 Scott Hedlund Esko
1999 Kyle Tomaich Duluth Central
1998 Tom Berrisford Duluth East
1997 Eric Goerdt Cherry
1996 Jason Belich Duluth Denfeld
1995 Matt Pfingsten Duluth Central