MISSION — It is said big time players make big time plays in big time games. Sharyland Pioneer’s Jacob Rosales was the biggest.
The shortstop, pitcher and four-year letterman took his game to another level during his senior season to lead the Diamondbacks to the UIL Baseball State Tournament, a place no team from the Rio Grande Valley had been since 2007.
One might think of the enormous amount of pressure a high school athlete faces when leading a group of underdogs up against the best baseball teams Texas has to offer, but not Rosales. He remained cool, calm and collected on the biggest of stages, including during the state tournament at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. He was still the same kid out there having fun on the diamond, just like he did while starring at quarterback for four years for Pioneer.
“People get surprised because they’d ask me if I was nervous or not, and I’d just say no. They’d ask why, and I’d say because when you’re nervous, you think too much,” Rosales said. “I think to be successful in this game, you have to think, but not as much, because when you think too much you put a lot of stuff in your head and it turns into a mental game. This is a game you have fun with. I live for these moments, and football was the same way. I guess the bigger the moment, the more I want to play.”
And in every big moment during Sharyland Pioneer’s sixth-round playoff run to the Final Four, Rosales was there for the Diamondbacks. A true five-tool player possessing speed, power, fielding, arm strength and hitting for average, Rosales was a beast at the plate, a terror on the base path, a horse on the mound and shut down at shortstop during his senior season to become The Monitor’s All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
The proof is in Rosales’ numbers. How about a .410 batting average, 48 hits, 48 runs scored, 36 RBIs, 33 walks and four home runs? And on the mound? A cool 9-4 record, a 1.87 ERA, seven complete games, five shutouts, and 105 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings. That was as the No. 1 pitcher for the Diamondbacks, often squaring off against the opposing team’s ace each time out.
And once the season was over, Rosales was named to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association 5A-6A All-State Elite Team and selected to play in the All-Star Game. During All-Star week, Rosales went on to win the Infielders Skills Challenge, beating out fellow All-Stars from across Texas.
Sharyland Pioneer coach Casey Smith said he saw Rosales raise his game to another level during his final year.
“No. 1, Jacob is a talented individual. He had a good year last year, but I thought he took his game to the next level this year from a mental side,” Smith said. “One of the things I’ve told him quite a few times is he got a lot tougher. He developed more of a bulldog mentality, just a mental toughness that carried over to the way he played, and I thought you saw that particularly in the playoffs. You saw it all year, but especially in the playoffs.”
Rosales’ leadership comes from directing the huddle on the gridiron and being a standout for the Diamondbacks in his four years on the baseball field.
“I’ve always just seen myself to be that person that everyone is going to look to,” he said. “If I’m down, they’re going to get down, if I’m up, everyone’s going to be up. I try my best to keep myself up, even if I have a bad game, you wouldn’t be able to tell because I’m the same person. I always just want to be myself and the goal was to always keep my energy up.”
And his energy, positivity and love for the game couldn’t help but rub off on the rest of the Diamondbacks. From freshman to seniors, each player followed Rosales’ lead and it landed them in the state tournament. And nothing was handed to the Diamondbacks. They set a goal, worked to accomplish it and took it, similar to the way Rosales approached his base-running.
Rosales’ wheels were easy to see on the football field and track, but on the diamond, he was a blur, finishing fifth in all of 5A with 44 stolen bases despite battling a hamstring injury.
“It’s something I worked on, even in the summer, I was just always working on stealing bases,” he said. “It’s just something I was naturally good at. Basically, if I get on first, I would always tell people behind me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to bring me in because I’m going to end up on third in two pitches or so.’ I probably should have had more, but my hamstring kept me from that. It was funny, sometimes I would get there and they wouldn’t even throw it.”
Now, Rosales will take his game to the next level as he will play baseball at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant. The junior college route may be different, but he takes pride in that, because he knows a player is a player, and Rosales was the top dog in the RGV during the 2018-2019 season.
“Baseball is that kind of sport where it doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter how big you are — if you’re a player, you’re a player,” he said.