Tuscola senior keeps USC Union pipeline going

May 17—Tuscola's Jacob Ward is the latest member of the Mountaineers to sign to take part in collegiate athletics.

"Words can't express how proud I am," Jacob's father Jody Ward said. "His dream was always to play college baseball. He's going to get to live his dream. As a parent, all the time, effort, money and riding around was worth it."

The senior signed with USC Union to continue his baseball career. He spent the majority of the season either on the hot corner at third or on the mound, but also saw time at first base.

"It's exciting," Tuscola baseball coach Zachary Shepherd said. "That's the goal. You want kids to further their education. If they get to play ball while they do it, that's exciting. That's an added motivation to get a degree a lot of times.

This year, Ward had the best batting average on the team, beating out fellow senior signee Jett Benson with a .387 average.

He also stole the second most bases, behind Benson, with eleven. Ward led the team in RBIs with 25 and doubles with nine. He also hit a home run.

On the mound, Ward had a 1.91 ERA in seven appearances, good for third on the team.

In the field, he had a fielding percentage of .939, putting him third on the team for players with at least 20 appearances.

"I'm very proud," Shepherd said. "He's matured tremendously since his freshman year. I think he's going to do great."

The recruiting process is always a whirlwind experience for high school athletes, but especially so when you have a late start, like Ward said he did.

"I started late and I just got in the right place at the right time," Ward said. "I have some friends over there. I really like all the coaches and I like where the school is at."

His dad touched on Jacob's friends there as well and said that the school choice seemed like a great fit.

"We visited a couple of schools," he said. "When we went down to USC Union he fell in love with it and he knew that was where he wanted to go."

USC Union is no stranger to Mountaineer players. There are currently three Tuscola players on the team, with Ward becoming the fourth. Trent Turner, Jared Penland and Mason Stepp are currently playing for the Bantams.

"It helps take some of the stress off of the boys," Shepherd said. "A lot of kids when they get to the end of their junior year start getting nervous because they don't have any options yet. It's good to be able to reach out to Coach Nall and Coach Stancil at USC Union. Now that the other three have went down and performed so well, it kind of gives added motivation because they know if we say we have a guy that they can play. Those three have set the bar."

This has obviously not been a feat that Ward accomplished alone, having the support of his coaches and family along the way.

"I'm just so proud of my boy," Jody Ward said. "We started this journey when he was seven and he's made his way up to here. I was able to coach him through Little League and middle school. This year, I was able to come on with Shepherd and help coach. It just means a lot to me to see him progress throughout the years and be able to live the dream he wants to live."

Ward plans to major in information technology at USC Union.