Southeast Missourian baseball player of the year: Perryville's Dobbelare hit nine homers, drove in 51 runs for Pirates

Sunday, July 8, 2012
Perryville senior Jake Dobbelare went 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA this season. He struck out 37 over 38 2/3 innings. (ADAM VOGLER)

Someone has to load balls into the pitching machine, so Jake Dobbelare recruits anyone around.

His father, Shane.

His little brother, Luke.

His girlfriend, Macy Schnurbusch.

Whoever he can find.

He credits the batting cage in his backyard for helping him post outstanding numbers this season for the Perryville baseball team.

"If I start slumping or something when I'm hitting, I go to the cage and work it out," he said.

Dobbelare's bat rarely slumped this season. He batted .476 with nine homers and 51 RBIs.

"I really just tried getting him off balance, but he's a real good hitter," Notre Dame standout pitcher Cody Heisserer said. "He'd hit any pitch I threw to him. You try keeping the ball low, but he's got long arms where he can reach down there and hit it."

Dobbelare's ability to hit for power and average while driving in at least 20 more runs than any other player in the Southeast Missourian's coverage area is why he is the Southeast Missourian baseball player of the year.

"Driving in 51 runs, you can't really beat that," Perryville senior Ross Moldenhauer said. "He pulled us out of a lot of games, helped us win a lot of games with his bat."

The 51 runs batted in this season tied for 17th all-time in the state of Missouri, according to the latest MSHSAA record book.

Perryville senior Jake Dobbelare hit three home runs in the Pirates' win over New Madrid County Central this season. He plans to play at Southwestern Illinois College next season. (Laura Simon)

"That was a big focus when I was hitting," he said about driving in runs. "Even if I'm not going to get a hit, I'll hit a sac fly or a ground ball to second. Whatever just to score a run because when they were on, we needed to score them."

Dobbelare looks more like a basketball player than a baseball player. But baseball always was the lanky 6-foot-8 senior's passion. The problem was that his lack of coordination limited his abilities when he was younger.

"I always enjoyed it, but I wasn't always good at it," he said. "I didn't play Little League all-stars or anything like that until I was 12."

His father, Shane, said his son never gave up despite the early struggles.

"When he was younger, he always loved the game of ball, but he wasn't always the one that got picked all the time because his coordination wasn't there," Shane said. "He just kept working at it and kept playing the game. He started making all-star teams when some of his friends had already been on the teams.

"When he got into high school, he just really worked hard at it. Went to school early in the morning and worked out, lifted weights."

Shane decided to install a batting cage in their home's backyard when Jake was about 14, which also was when his coordination began to catch up with his desire.

"I never was a pusher as a dad," Shane said. "Some dads get overbearing with it. I was always, 'Here's an opportunity. Now what you do with that opportunity is up to you.' He took that on himself. To this day, [Jake and his brother] go out there in the batting cage and hit buckets of balls."

Perryville coach Don O'Keefe laughs at the difference from Dobbelare's freshman to senior years.

"People, if they can remember him as a freshman, he's always been a really tall kid but didn't have that true coordination yet," O'Keefe said. "He worked very hard to be able to do what he did, as far as working on his midsection, coordination, getting stronger. And what you saw was a kid who started to come into his own this season."

Dobbelare exploded out of the gate this season. He didn't miss during the week of March 26. He went a combined 10 of 12 with five homers and 13 RBIs.

"I was just looking for my pitch," he said. "I was always a fastball hitter, and that just seemed what they were throwing me."

The three-game streak wasn't against cream puffs, either. The first three hits came against Heisserer, Notre Dame's ace, before facing De Soto and New Madrid County Central.

Dobbelare's favorite memory from the streak was the game at NMCC, where some Eagles fans started heckling him after his first home run. They challenged him to hit another homer. He pointed at the fans he rounded third base after his second shot.

They already had left by the time he hit his third in the game.

"I couldn't believe it when I hit three," he said.

Shane said he noticed a considerable difference in his son's approach at the plate this season.

"This year he was just more relaxed and was comfortable up there," he said. "You could tell when he stepped in the box, he was just nice and fluid and relaxed up there and loose. He didn't get frustrated. He just looked for his pitch."

Dobbelare admitted he wasn't afraid to get into a hole during an at-bat while he waited for his pitch. He knew he could wait on something he liked, and he proved it by only striking out once in 93 plate appearances.

"Generally someone isn't going to throw you three straight curveballs for a strike," he said. "You're generally going to get a fastball for a strike."

Dobbelare managed to avoid slumps during the season, and he said the batting cage at home played a key role in that.

"I'm usually pretty good about it on my own, but my dad is always there and watches everything," he said about correcting problems in his swing. "He'll always help me with it. Coaches will help, but dad, he knows my swing just about as good as I do."

O'Keefe said it's a given that having a batting cage in the backyard helped Dobbelare post impressive numbers.

"Any time you want to go out and work on things or you're trying to figure things out and work on that repetition, it helps," O'Keefe said. "Being right in your backyard instead of traveling a half-hour for Jake to go hit, it's a great convenience."

Jake Dobbelare plans to play baseball at Southwestern Illinois College next season.

Dobbelare wielded a potent bat, but it's his right arm that landed him a scholarship to Southwestern Illinois College, a junior college in Belleville, Ill.

"I always think I'm a better hitter, but then I'm projected better as a pitcher, being taller," he said. "All the coaches say I should be a pitcher, but I like hitting."

Dobbelare posted respectable numbers on the mound. He went 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA. He struck out 37 and walked 18 over 38 2/3 innings.

"I was always pretty comfortable -- really better at the beginning of the year than late in the year," he said. "But by the end of the year, I was probably throwing about every four days, and I had rest at the beginning of the year. I always need rest because I've had arm problems in the past."

Dobbelare hopes Southwestern Illinois College only is the beginning. He would like to parlay his two years there into a scholarship at a Division I university. His high school coach doesn't expect that to be a problem, especially since Jake just celebrated his 18th birthday in May.

"I think with Jake, I think his full body is going to figure it out in college," he said. "I think what I got to see in Jake this year is not the best Jake has to offer. He's a kid that his body is starting to catch up."

It's that outlook that has Shane smiling because he still remembers the uncoordinated kid who often went overlooked for all-star teams.

"As a dad, you kind of walk around with a smile and you want to tell everybody about his accomplishments and how well he's done," Shane said.

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