Harlem High School's Jordan Whitaker has a not-so-simple goal - to see the Bulldogs' baseball team win the Class AAA state championship this year.
He'll try to get the Dogs off to a positive start today when he steps on the mound to lead Harlem into action against Dublin High School in the first round of the state AAA baseball playoffs.
"I think we'll play beyond everyone's expectations," Whitaker said. "I think we've been playing well, and if we keep that up then we have a good chance. We've had a long winning streak lately, because we kept our errors down. We just can't make any mistakes."
In 51 innings on the mound, Jordan sports a solid 3.75 ERA. On a nonpitching day, he stays in the lineup at third base and sometimes in the outfield.
"I'd like to get a scholarship someday to play college ball, but, right now, I'd like to win at state," the 17-year-old junior said. "I hope we can do it this year, but if not, I definitely want to get that done next year."
Harlem High School's Jordan Whitaker
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis says Whitaker's tenacity makes him such an asset to his team.
"In all honesty, Jordan doesn't have the best arm I've ever seen, but he's a warrior on the mound," Lewis said. "He battles with every pitch, and more often than not, he comes through for us."
An example of the right-hander's drive came in a recent game against Washington County. Whitaker took the hill for the Dogs, and promptly gave up a home run.
Instead of getting discouraged, Whitaker regrouped and helped Harlem pull out a 6-5 victory.
"Sometimes I can feel a little nervous on the mound, but it usually passes pretty quickly. I don't let a bad game or a bad throw bother me. I just concentrate on the next pitch coming up. I try to get into a groove and stay there."
A lifelong Harlem resident, Whitaker started off playing recreation department ball at age 4. An offensive center on the school's football team, Jordan said he probably prefers football over baseball, but he feels most at home on the diamond.
"I really like that pumped-up feeling I get from football, but I also like that feel of control on the mound. What I do pitching determines the outcome of the game, and I like how it feels when things go the way I want them to."
Whitaker's ability with a bat is as impressive as his skills on the mound. In the 2003 season, he has racked up 21 hits, second most on the team, and leads the Dogs in home runs. In addition to his batting average of .350, Whitaker is tied for the most doubles on the team with four and is third in RBIs with 14.
But he is completely unaware of any of those stats. Whitaker is much more concerned with the outcome of the game than with personal performance.
"I want to play, and I want to play well, but mostly I want to win," he said.
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