By STEVE KRAH
Jacson McGowan has put up some power numbers for Purdue University baseball.
In 45 games (all starts), the junior first baseman has mashed for team highs in home runs (11), runs batted in (48) and slugging percentage (.588).
Yet it was a single that the Brownsburg High School graduate delivered on Tuesday, May 8 in a win against Fort Wayne that illustrates a positive change Boilermakers coach Mark Wasikowski has witnessed in the right-handed batter.
On an 0-1 pitch, clean-up hitter McGowan delivered a run-scoring single between the first baseman and second baseman in the second inning.
“Against the soft arm he’s able to sit back, get on top of the ball and shoot the opposite-side hole just to get an RBI,” says Wasikowski. “That’s the mature type of approach that he now has.”
Wasikowski came to the Boilers for the 2017 season. Since then he’s seen much improvement in McGowan.
“He’s a man at the plate — that’s for sure,” says Wasikowski of the 6-foot-2 1/2, 212-pounder. “He’s one of the few legit power threats I’ve seen in our conference and in the teams we’ve played.
“He’s really come a long way. He’s still not there yet. He’s a young guy that works really hard. He’s had huge leaps in the last year and a half.”
Wasikowski has seen McGowan up his mental toughness and physical strength while buying into an approach at the plate that works.
“Instead of being a youthful hitter, he’s maturing as a hitter,” says Wasikowski.
It’s a confidence thing.
“I know I’m better than what I betray sometimes,” says McGowan. “No matter who I’m matched up against, I have the advantage over the pitcher.”
McGowan explained his approach on Tuesday’s RBI single.
“It’s good situational hitting,” says McGowan. “If a team’s play a shift on you, you just hit it where they’r not. That’s the name of the game. You hit it where they are and it’s not very much fun. You’re not going to get many hits that way.
“Shorten up and go the other way and get yourself an RBI at the same time.”
With a victory Wednesday, May 8, Purdue has now won 13 in a row — matching the longest winning streak in program history and extending the nation’s longest active streak.
The Boilers (29-16 overall, 13-4 Big Ten) were 16-16 when the win streak began.
The reason for the surge?
“We’ve come together as a team,” says McGowan. “We’ve hit our stride and played the best baseball we’ve played in awhile.”
Wasikowski has his take.
“The team wanted to play baseball as a team,” says Wasikowski. “They were tired of being on the roller coaster ride. We were going through streaks of failures and streaks of successes this year. We started off 8-2 then we got onto a bumpy road. “We started coming on again and then we got onto another bumpy road.
The big thing is we stopped playing for ourselves and started playing for a bigger cause.”
Who lit the fuse?
“Initially, it probably came from the coaching staff,” says Wasikowski, who is assisted by Steve Holm, Wally Crancer, Greg Goff (volunteer) and John Madia (director of operations). “But it’s never going to get down until it comes from inside the locker room. There were some critical guys inside that locker room that ended up pushing the pendulum and the needle on that thing.”
McGowan talks about the culture that Wasikowski has established in the Purdue program.
“It’s awesome,” says McGowan. “His philosophy is ‘just got for it.’ If you go for it and mess up, it’s alright. If you don’t go for it, you’re playing timid.”
Academically, McGowan has enjoyed majoring in Technology, Innovation and Leadership.
“It’s business — just in an another school,” says McGowan. “Most of the classes are with athletes. There’s a lot of communication and working together so it’s pretty cool.”
Most athletes try to schedule their classes Monday through Thursday and in the morning so they can get away on the weekends (the Boilers have a Big Ten series May 11-13 at Ohio State) and get to practice on-time.
Jacson, the son of Steven and Tabitha McGowan and younger brother of Alex McGowan and Sam McGowan, played for Eric Mattingly at Brownsburg High.
Travel baseball came via the Indiana Outlaws (now Evoshield Canes Midwest).
Jacson McGowan (27) celebrates with Purdue University baseball teammates. (Purdue University Photo)
Purdue University baseball head coach Mark Wasikowski (left) exhanges high-fives with Jacson McGowan. (Purdue University Photo)
Purdue University junior first baseman Jacson McGowan, a Brownsburg High School graduate, is a legitimate power threat in the No. 4 hole. (Purdue University Photo)