STARKVILLE – Nick Vickerson left some pretty big shoes for his younger brother Jake to fill at Mississippi State.
Not only is Nick making a living playing professional baseball these days but he also hit one of the most memorable home runs in Bulldog history with his walk-off, two-run shot in Game 2 of the 2011 Gainesville Super Regional.
Jake is proud of his older brother’s accomplishments but stays within his own abilities as a player.
“I always told myself that I didn’t want to do what Nick did,” Jake said. “He made his mark here and I’m proud of him for that. I was obviously familiar and interested in the program with Nick being here for two years. It’s just the way it worked out and I ended up coming here.”
But Starkville is not the first place or even the second where Jake has had to follow in his brother’s footsteps on the diamond. First it was Hillcrest High School and then at Shelton State Community College, both of which are located in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Although Nick is away in the Texas Rangers farm system playing for Class A Myrtle Beach, the Vickerson brothers speak multiple times daily and often share advice on hitting through video chats.
Jake enjoyed a solid junior season at MSU where he appeared in 60 games and made 47 starts. He hit .267 with five doubles, a triple and 15 runs batted in while finishing second on the team with 11 steals.
“It was an up and down season but I understand that’s how it goes sometimes,” Jake said. “I was in the lineup most of the year. I’m just trying to help the team win whichever way I can – defensively, offensively, running the bases, whatever it takes.”
Not only did Jake have to make the transition to the Southeastern Conference from the junior college level but he had to learn a new position as well. He had been primarily a middle infielder during his career prior to becoming an outfielder at Mississippi State.
“The fall was definitely a grind and it was in the spring too,” Jake said. “They tell us every day that (batting practice) is our time to get our (outfield) work in so I try to take BP seriously and get my reads. I just go as hard as I can out there.”
Jake batted .371 during his sophomore season at Shelton State adding 23 RBI and 23 steals in 24 tries. He earned first team All-Region and All-State helping lead the Buccaneers to the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament title and the JUCO World Series in Colorado. He chose to cross the state line choosing the Bulldogs over an offer from hometown school Alabama.
After playing a season in the SEC, Jake is able to make the comparison in the talent level in junior college and Division I.
“I feel like everybody (in the SEC) is better defensively for sure,” Jake said. “Obviously there’s a lot more guys with pop. There are good players in junior college too but pitching is probably the main difference. I faced a lot of good arms in JUCO but the secondary stuff here is better – better change-ups and tighter, harder breaking balls.”
The 5-foot-9, 184-pounder is currently spending his summer in the California Collegiate Baseball League with the Santa Barbara Foresters. In 28 games, Jake is hitting .314 with three doubles, nine RBI and 11 stolen bases. He has only struck out five times in 100 plate appearance.