Highland News Leader

Highland grad Willis enjoys summer season while gearing up for baseball at Kaskaskia College

Big hits, kicks and jumps

Baseball, softball, girls soccer and track are in action.
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Baseball, softball, girls soccer and track are in action.

Jacob Willis had a busy spring helping lead the Highland baseball team to the Class 3A sectional championship game in Salem in May.

Since school ended, Willis has been enjoying his summer around Highland and been busy playing summer ball with the Illinois Lumberyard team.

“It’s been a fun summer so far, playing ball with Illinois Lumberyard and relaxing and hanging out a bit around Highland,” Willis said. “I’ve been lifting, playing baseball and enjoying a lot of the summer.”

Illinois Lumberyard is a regional travel team that consists of players from Civic Memorial, Highland, Carlinville, Granite City, and O’Fallon high schools. The team mainly plays out of town tournaments on weekends.

The club recently played a tournament in Florida and this week is traveling to Omaha, Nebraska.

“We kind of just play in tournaments around here and out of town on the weekends,” Willis said. “It’s a lot of fun (traveling) and a lot of these guys I play with, I’ve known for a while now.”

Willis’s summer season is going well thus far, as he is hitting a robust .383.

When Willis is not playing third base with Ilinois Lumberyard, he is busy getting ready for his freshman season of baseball at Kaskaskia College in Centralia.

Willis was the first Bulldog baseball player to sign with a school back in February when he signed with Kaskaskia.

According to Willis, Kaskaskia coach Mitch Koester has him on a weightlifting and conditioning program that will help him be ready for the fall exhibition season.

“I asked coach Koester to get me a conditioning program and the routine he set me with at Kaskaskia … he set me up with lifting three days a week and conditioning as well,” Willis said.

At Highland, Willis played shortstop in his senior season and hit a team-leading .388 with a .512 on-base percentage and 23 stolen bases.

“Jacob Willis was our best offensive player and he made some eye-popping plays on defense as well for us,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said.

As he prepares to head to Kaskaskia soon, Wlllis is set to make the move from shortstop back to his more natural, long-time position of third base.

Koester and the Kaskaskia staff have plans on primarily using him there this fall.

“They have a really good shortstop there now and going into college I kind of wanted to play third base so I’m trying to bulk up (for it),” Willis said. “I’m not the fastest there and I really grew up playing third base, so I’m really used to it.”

Willis has a couple of definite goals he wants to achieve this season.

“I definitely want to have the average in the .300’s at probably .320 to .330 and above and really have fewer errors which I think will be a lot easier to do (playing third),” Willis said.