NCS Junior of the Year
RYAN JACKSON, HERITAGE
Despite making his first varsity start as a freshman and earning first-team all-league honors as a sophomore, Heritage junior Ryan Jackson was still largely unknown across the North Coast Section entering the 2019 season. Consider him well-known now, after a breakthrough campaign which saw him lead the Patriots to back-to-back league titles and the program’s first-ever appearance in the section championship game.
Playing shortstop amid a talented cast of infielders, Jackson hit a whopping .582 with 13 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs and also walked 15 times for an on-base percentage of .642. Meanwhile, he also took the ball on the mound as the ace pitcher of the Heritage staff, at least until elbow soreness severely limited his innings in the final seven weeks of the season. During his time leading the rotation, Jackson went 4-0 in seven starts, posting a miniscule 0.76 ERA and striking out 55 batters in 36 innings pitched. That included an impressive 12-strikeout performance in a no-decision against Oak Ridge at Banner Island, and another 10-strikeout performance in a no-decision against Berkeley a week later, both games which the Patriots ultimately won. He was also utilized in relief during the section playoffs, tossing a scoreless inning against league rival Freedom in the first round, and two more to earn the save in a semifinal win over Amador Valley.
Amid Jackson’s increased focus on his pitching role, his ability to produce at the plate never waned. Just once all season was he held hitless, in the final game of the Boras Classic, a rematch with Oak Ridge. Other than that, he hit safely in 27 of 28 games this year, including the final 11 games of the season. His RBI triple off De La Salle ace Kyle Harrison provided the Patriots with their only run of the game in the NCS Division I title game, and he had 17 multi-hit games, highlighted by a 5-for-5 performance against head coach Kevin Brannan’s alma mater, El Camino-South San Francisco.
“He averaged almost two hits per game and if you ask him, he would say he could have done better,” Brannan said. “He is consistently the hardest worker at practice. He competes with his teammates every day and I think that’s why games seem to come easy to him.”
Indeed, the games did appear to come easy to Jackson, especially during Heritage’s deep post-season run. The junior had three hits each in a quarterfinal win over three-seed Acalanes and a semifinal over two-seed Amador Valley. He also drove in a pair of runs during the historic win over Amador Valley, the win which sent the Patriots into the final for the first time ever. His season totals were also in unchartered territory for the Heritage program, as he smashed the single-season record for hits, blowing past the previous top mark of 41 hits in a year to finish with 53 of them.
“One of my major highlights this year was achieving that mark, to become the single-season hits leader at Heritage, but the big one was reaching the NCS championship game,” Jackson said. “I have been working hard to obtain the goals which I have set for myself, and achieving awards such as this has been a great honor.”
Prior to the 2019 season, Jackson’s stock on the recruiting scene had been relatively quiet. Now, Brannan is getting used to fielding calls about the rising prospect, who is uncommitted as he heads to this senior year, something he would like to remedy as he keeps focused on the road ahead.
“I need to keep getting bigger, stronger and faster throughout the summer and off-season, and I would also like to find the college where I can further my baseball career,” Jackson added.
For his efforts throughout this season, we are pleased to recognize Ryan Jackson as the Prep2Prep North Coast Section Junior of the Year.
Other players considered include Acalanes’ Nick Kresnak, Washington’s Damian Stone, San Ramon Valley’s Jack Grant and De La Salle’s Vince Bianchina.