It’s always nice to have options and, with his superb skills in both baseball and basketball, Bedford junior Jackson Lamb has plenty of them as he ponders his athletic future.
If he opts for college sports, will he pick baseball or basketball? If he is selected in next year’s Major League Baseball draft, will he choose to skip college and play pro baseball? If he does select college or pro baseball, will he be a pitcher or an everyday player like a center fielder?
“I’m leaning a little bit toward baseball because I just like it a little bit more,” Lamb said. “I’ve played baseball longer. It’s not that I don’t like basketball, it’s just that I think I have a better future maybe in baseball.
“That’s something I will still have to think about. I think playing both [in college] would be hard, but it would be something kind of cool. But that would be hard to do with school, so I think I’m going to have to pick one or the other.”
The agile 6-foot-6 Lamb was a Michigan Class A all-state first-team basketball player who led the Kicking Mules to the regional final, and the best record in school history at18-6.
He averaged 21.8 points and 10 rebounds. With a year still to play, the three-year starter is already Bedford’s career scoring leader with 1,328 points and has 650 career rebounds.
“Jackson is the type of player who has had a very successful high school career but also still has a tremendous upside,” said Bedford basketball coach Nick Lowe. “That is what makes him appealing to college coaches. He has athleticism you don’t see in an everyday high school player.”
Lamb has basketball scholarship offers from Toledo, Akron, Central Michigan, Ohio, and Oakland.
“A lot will come [clearer] after this AAU season,” Lowe said. “We’ll see if his offers intensify, and if he gets offers from some bigger schools.
“It comes down to him having to make choice — which [sport] he enjoys more, and which one he sees as having a better future for him.”
On Saturday the Mules begin play in the Division 1 state baseball tournament at Saline with a district semifinal against Southeastern Conference Red Division rival Saline.
In his 16th season as Mules baseball coach, Craig Trychel’s overhauled squad (22-12) will try to make another deep tourney run. Last season Bedford (36-7) came heartbreakingly close to a state championship, surrendering a late lead in falling 5-4 to Rockford in the title game in Battle Creek. In 2009, Trychel’s Mules reached the state semifinals.
“I don’t see him not playing baseball,” Trychel said of Lamb. “If he doesn’t get drafted I will be totally shocked, especially with a another year to go and all the tools he has already.
“He’s going to put on weight and get stronger. They should be able to put four or five miles per hour on his fastball. Once he gets perfect mechanics, and works with it all the time, he’s going to get better and better on the mound.
“But that’s the hard part. He swings the bat so well and he’s a great hitter, and I can see him playing in the outfield for anybody. If a ball is hit in the air in the outfield, and if [it’s] possible to get to it, he’s going to catch it.”
Lamb has a baseball scholarship offer from Michigan.
Saturday’s Bedford-Saline matchup features two teams that have been state runner-up four years running. Saline fell in the final three straight years (2008-2010). This season they split their SEC games. Saline won the Red Division with a 14-2 record, while Bedford was second at 10-6.
Lamb will be the starting pitcher, and with him on the mound Bedford figures to have a fighting chance. With a fastball clocked this season at 92 mph, he is 7-2 pitching with an 0.92 ERA. He has allowed just 26 hits while striking out 71 and walking 22 in 45⅔ innings.
At the plate, Lamb hitting .557 (44-for-79) with 12 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 30 runs scored, and 24 RBIs.
These numbers have come despite missing nine games because of a right ankle injury and subsequent re-injury. Early in the baseball season he sustained a high ankle sprain while playing AAU basketball. He returned after missing seven games, then missed two more when he was hit on the same ankle with a line drive while pitching.
“When I first came back we played St. John’s and I went 0-for-4,” Lamb said. “It was hard getting back into it. But, once I did, it was like I had never stopped playing. It’s 100 percent now.”
Last season an injury-free Lamb hit .489 (68-for-139) with eight homers, 59 runs scored, and 46 RBIs, and he was 4-0 pitching with a 1.08 ERA, mostly in relief. He was named all-state first team as an outfielder.
Could Lamb possibly play baseball and basketball in college?
“I think it would take a very unique situation to be able to do both,” Lowe said. “Jackson’s a very mature athlete and student. He already knows that it would be very difficult to do both sports and still be the type of student that he wants to be.”
Along with junior first baseman Kyle Kuhr (hitting .325 this year), Lamb is one of only two full-time starters who returned from the state runner-up baseball team. Senior pitcher/second baseman Zach Mills (5-4 pitching, 2.82 ERA) was a part-time starter.
Adding offensive punch have been junior catcher/DH Josh Strickland (.427, 4 HR, 31 RBIs) and senior outfielder Zach Kitzmiller (.394, 22 RBIs). Senior Justin McPherson (5-4, 3.48 ERA) provides pitching depth.
“When the year started out we lacked some confidence because of the lack of experience,” Lamb said. “But we’re starting to play with more confidence now, Going into games, we know we have the ability to win. That’s a big difference between the beginning of the year and now — confidence.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.