PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke third baseman Trey Jacobs is making his mark in the program’s record book this season, and he has a chance to reach more milestones when the Braves begin the NCAA Southeast Regional on Thursday.
Jacobs earned the program’s first Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Award before he helped guide the team to a 2-1 record in the league tournament. He has the program record for doubles in a season with 26 and is two RBIs away from matching the school record of 78 set my Jason Morales in 2008. He also needs three hits to tie Jordan Edgerton’s record of 94.
“I’m so happy he’s on our team and not somebody else’s,” UNCP head coach Paul O’Neil said with a smile.
Jacobs and the fifth-seeded Braves (38-13) will face off with fourth-seeded PBC foe Columbus State (40-12) on Thursday in the first round of the regional, which is hosted by North Greenville. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
UNCP played two games on the road against the Cougars in a rain-shortened series earlier this season.
“Columbus State is a very good baseball team,” O’Neil said. “You don’t win 40 games by not being talented. We’re going to have our hands full. The kid they’re going to start (Kolton Ingram) is an all-conference pitcher. He is very good. He’s not easy to hit.”
Ingram is 11-3 with a 2.35 ERA this season. The left-hander has 122 strikeouts in just over 107 innings on the mound.
He will face off against another first team all-conference honoree in Anthony Burke, who is 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA. The senior has logged six complete games in 14 appearances, and he has 82 strikeouts through 105 innings of work.
“I think we’re going to be better this year than we were last year, having the experience of going through it,” Burke said.
Five of Burke’s six complete games came over his final six starts this season. The Fredericksburg, Va., native said adjustments to his mechanics helped him lock in throughout the second half of his senior campaign.
“Earlier in the year I was out of whack,” Burke said. “I put a lot of effort into trying to fix that. Like (O’Neil) says, when we get out there we have to steal as many outs as we can. That’s all I’m trying to do, so I can save the bullpen for the rest of the games.”
He is backed up by a team that carries a combined batting average of .340. Jacobs has the team’s highest average at .419. He is followed closely by Luke Jackson, who is hitting .409 at the plate.
Jacobs said his ongoing pursuit of school records will take a backseat to helping the Braves advance through the regionals.
“The records are cool and fun to break, but I just try to help the team out the best that I can,” Jacobs said. “If that means I break records, then that’s what happens.”
Jackson said the idea of getting revenge against Columbus State for the sweep earlier in the season isn’t on the team’s mind.
“We’re just trying to win one game at a time,” Jackson said. “We’re not worried about who it is. It doesn’t make a difference for us. We’re just going to go out there and give it our all and find a way to win.”
Austin Pharr leads the Cougars at the plate with a .350 batting average to go along with 48 RBIs and 14 home runs.
He is one homer away from tying Frank Wager for the team’s lead. Wager also has the second-highest total in the conference, trailing North Georgia’s Andres Perez by eight.
In other first-round games, second-seeded Georgia College (42-10), the newly crowned PBC champions, will take on seventh-seeded Lincoln Memorial (35-19) at 3 p.m. on Thursday. The winner of that game will play the winner of an 11 a.m. contest between third-seeded Belmont Abbey (37-12) and sixth-ranked Wingate (34-17).
The winner of UNCP’s first round game will play top-seeded North Greenville (44-8) in the second round at 3 p.m. on Friday.
“This is the most excited I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Jackson said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to play with our seniors again and get another week with them.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.