Meyer has been big in closer role for NCAA-bound Aces

Columbus North graduate and Evansville senior Jakob Meyer delivers a pitch for the Aces in Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference championship game against Indiana State.

Submitted photo

For most of his high school baseball career, Jakob Meyer was a starting pitcher.

So when the 2019 Columbus North graduate headed to University of Evansville, he wasn’t expecting to find himself in an entirely different role.

After making one start for the Aces as a freshman, Meyer became a relief pitcher. The fifth-year senior has been the team’s closer three of the past four years, including for this year’s NCAA Tournament-bound squad.

“If you told me that before I came here to college, I wouldn’t have said that,” Meyer said. “It’s weird. The game is so much different in college. You have to take what they give you and adapt, and to be able to do that in a short amount of time here is pretty awesome.”

Meyer was on the mound when Evansville nailed down its berth in the NCAA. He came on with one out in the ninth and induced a double play grounder to preserve an 8-6 win against Indiana State that gave the Aces the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title.

“My career couldn’t have ended in a better way,” Meyer said. “That was the last game I’ll ever play at German American Bank Field, and to be able to end my career there with a win and getting the save is nothing short of incredible.

“It was absolutely unreal,” he added. “I think I blacked out a little bit, and I woke up, and I was at the bottom of the dogpile. It was a night of celebration, more than I could have expected, honestly.”

After seeing his fastball top out at 89 MPH in high school, Meyer has added a little velocity. He also has developed a slider and changeup to go along with the fastball and curveball.

“I feel very confident to be able to throw four pitches at any time,” Meyer said. “I feel like I can do pretty well in pretty much any situation. I’ve been in a closer role for so long, it’s where I feel the most comfortable. But I feel confident I can go out there for three or four innings.”

Meyer’s one collegiate start came as a freshman at No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He gave up one run in one inning.

Since then, it’s been all relief for the right-hander.

“It was a little bit of a change because I had been used to throwing six or seven innings at a time,” Meyer said. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you have a bad inning. It’s a little bit more rewarding when you pitch more innings, and you can go out there and prove yourself again.”

This season, Meyer has five of the team’s eight saves and has struck out 46 batters in 37 2/3 innings. His 16 career saves ranks fifth on Evansville’s all-time list, one save out of third place.

The Aces, coached by former Evansville standout Wes Carroll, will be making their first trip to the NCAA tourney since 2006.

“It’s such a special thing, especially for the senior class,” Meyer said. “We’ve been here for five years, and we’ve seen the program grow to what it is today. It’s great to see the fruits of our labor and make history and go down to the regional in Greenville.”

Seeded fourth in the four-team Greenville (North Carolina) Regional, the Aces (35-23) will take on top-seed and No. 16-ranked host East Carolina (43-15) at 1 p.m. Friday. Win or lose, Evansville then would face Wake Forest or VCU on Saturday in the double-elimination bracket.

“We actually feel very good about this matchup,” Meyer said. “To go in and sweep the conference tournament, the bats were hot, the pitching was good, the defense was good, so I feel like we’re clicking on all cylinders right now. So I feel like we have a good chance at winning this regional.”

Earlier this month, Meyer graduated Summa Cum Laude with degrees in finance and business management. He plans to try out for the Frontier League’s Evansville Otters and play for them this season before likely calling it a career.

“I’ll play with them one summer and then probably move on and get a big-boy job,” Meyer said. “I’m going to wait until baseball is over to look into that and figure it all out.”