Blazing his own trail

The class of 2014 is headed in the right direction for Coach Darin Erstad from Nebraska. Over the weekend he picked up the commitment from a left-handed pitcher from Great Falls, Virg. What drew this pitcher half-way across the country to be a Husker?

Jake McSteen is a name to pay attention to. The 5-foot-10 and 170-pound junior from Great Falls (Virg.) was in Lincoln over the weekend and saw two of the three victories by Nebraska over Northwestern including the marathon on Friday night.

"I committed to Nebraska on Saturday afternoon after the game," McSteen said. "We got up to Lincoln on Friday afternoon, caught the game that night and the game on Saturday then left on Sunday morning.

"We saw Nebraska win in 16 innings on Friday night and we saw them win on Saturday in nine innings. Nebraska ended up sweeping Northwestern that weekend. It was awesome to see."

This past weekend wasn't the first weekend for McSteen to visit Nebraska. He first visited in January and shortly after talking to the head coach he wanted to get out on the field, right then and there. The time was right this weekend for McSteen to say yes to the idea of being a Husker.

"The first time I visited Lincoln back in January I was very excited to meet Coach Erstad. I had heard a lot about him. I kind of remembered seeing him play later in his career when I was younger. It was great getting a chance to meet him.

"In the first 10 minutes I spoke with him I wanted to put cleats on right then and there. I was ready to go and play for him. Obviously I didn't have an offer from him at that point and the second time getting to see the team play, see the fans and I just loved it. I wanted to be a part of it."

How McSteen found Nebraska is a bit of a story in itself. He had ties through his family to just about every other Big Ten school there is, but it was a couple of family friends that mentioned Nebraska to him when playing college football started to become a real possibility.

"Well my entire family has always been Big Ten people. My dad went to Penn State, my mom went to Michigan State, my sister is a freshman at Wisconsin, my grandparents went to Ohio State and my aunts and uncles are from Indiana.

"I wanted to go to a Big Ten school since I was about five years old, but I wanted to go to my own school. I have some good family friends who are from Nebraska and they kind of put an idea in my head when playing baseball in college was realistic.

"I reached out to Nebraska and I got a response pretty quickly about my inquiry. They showed a lot of interest in me right away and I really liked that."

McSteen is lefty who says that he's comfortable working in the rotation or out of the pen. He said that he never discussed that with Nebraska because it's not really an issue to him.

"I am a left handed pitcher and we haven't really talked about whether I would be a bullpen guy or a starter. It doesn't really matter to me because I have done both in high school. I have mostly started the past two years, but this year there are three of us so two weeks I will start and the other I will close."

One big reason to keep an eye on McSteen is a bit of a growth spurt that he's seen over the past six to eight months. He's put on a little bit of size and saw an increase on his fast ball. Still, he says that he has a best pitch that is not his fast ball that he knows he can get outs with.

"My first years of high school I was always a location guy; my coaches stressed that because I wasn't an overpowering pitcher. This winter I grew a lot, I added 15 pounds to my frame and I got a lot stronger. I was 81-83 in the fall hitting spots and in the spring I was 87-88 and still hitting spots in my first couple of starts. I still think my best pitch is my change-up."

There is time for McSteen to still grow and expect for his name to continue to get out there a little more. McSteen has already been named a pre-season honorable mention as an All-American under-classmen this year.

"I am just a junior right now. I was named to the 2013 Underclass Honorable Mention All-American. When I was at the 17U nationals event in Florida in the fall I made the all-tournament team as a pitcher with an ERA of 0.00 during that tournament."

Bryan Munson has worked with Big Red Report for 10 years covering recruiting and football and has covered Nebraska recruiting for 12 years.
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