Joe Jablonski chose a spot on Grand Valley State's team rather than attending Michigan State with preferred walk-on status.
Throughout his high school and college career on the diamond, Joe Jablonski has come to personify the notion of persistence paying off.
The Bedford graduate recently became the all-time leader in victories within the Grand Valley State baseball program with his 22nd career win.
The record-breaking performance came in a 3-1 decision in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Lake Erie College on March 26.
"I'm very proud of it," Jablonski said of the record. "I think it's a good way to show my hard work is paying off. It's a good thing to have, to be able to look back on my career and have something to be proud of."
The 6-foot-5 senior right-hander holds a perfect 3-0 mark this season with a 2.42 ERA and has lost just six games in his career with the Lakers.
"The big thing is just having confidence in our team," Jablonski said. "Ever since I've been here, I think we've [averaged] seven runs per game, and it's pretty easy to have confidence going in knowing that if I throw strikes and don't walk guys, we'll be able to put up some runs and guys will be making plays on defense.
"Basically, if I don't lose the game, we have a good chance of winning it."
Grand Valley State, an NCAA Division II school located in Allendale, Mich., is off to a 15-2 start this season, including a 4-0 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and holds a top 10 national ranking.
The Lakers had their run of seven straight GLIAC titles snapped last season and, in addition to attempting to re-establish their dominance in the league, are also vying to qualify for the College World Series for the fifth time in nine years.
Jablonski and the rest of GVSU's pitchers have been leading the Lakers' resurgence, sporting a combined 2.55 ERA.
"Our pitching staff has great numbers right now," Jablonski said. "In the past, not to take anything away from our current staff, but I think we've had more talented guys. But this year's guys are doing a good job of knowing our roles and learning what we can do to be successful, and it's paid off."
Jablonski's determination to become a better pitcher has also paid off through the years.
Early in his career at Bedford, Jablonski didn't stand out from the pack.
"I guess you could consider me a bit of a late-bloomer," he said. "I didn't really have enough velocity my sophomore and junior year to play college baseball, but then my senior year, my velocity jumped a little bit, and I started getting some looks [from colleges]."
While at a baseball camp at Michigan State during his senior year, Jablonski's pitching caught the eye of an assistant coach at Grand Valley State, and he soon was offered a spot on the team.
Michigan State also wanted Jablonski, but only as a preferred walk-on.
After opting to be a big fish in a smaller pond vs. a fringe player at a bigger program, Jablonski has put together a solid career at Grand Valley State, where he's majoring in movement science.
"I think it ended up being the right decision for me," Jablonski said of his college choice. "Getting the chance to redshirt my freshman year allowed me to develop as a pitcher and get four good years in, as opposed to maybe sitting on the bench my whole career at Michigan State. It's been good to experience the success I've had here at Grand Valley."
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com or 419-724-6084.
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