By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Jacob Carney has always loved playing baseball.
Whether it was playing in the backyard with his family, hitting balls in a batting cage, playing on Little League teams or even playing for Sherando, Carney just enjoys being out on the field all the time.
"It's just a lot of fun," Carney said. "It's a really enjoyable game. There's no other sport I'd rather be playing."
The Sherando senior began playing in the backyard with his father and brother when he was 3. His older brother Zach, who graduated three years ago from Sherando, was left-handed so Jacob, wanting to emulate him, batted left-handed as well.
Carney's father Tom, who is also Sherando's assistant baseball coach, said that Jacob simply couldn't play enough even when he was little.
"When he was young, we would go to the park and his older brother was upset we had to go, and Jacob was always upset that we had to come home," Tom Carney said. "In Little League when he was 9 on the 10-year old all-star team, we played five nights in a row. We stopped to get something to eat and he goes, 'I don't think I played enough baseball.' We were all worn out from the week."
Jacob Carney stopped playing Little League when he was 11, and began playing for the Longhorn Baseball Club in Ashburn. He continued to improve, and from there he began playing travel ball for the Richmond Braves.
The Braves were coached by former college and pro players, and he played for them from the time he was 14 until last fall.
The summer league team traveled all over the East Coast, and Jacob Carney had players from all over the state on his team.
When Jacob Carney is not playing, he is working out at the Shenandoah Valley Baseball-Softball Academy, including working with former Turner Ashby standout Brian Bocock.
"He's had way more help than I could give him," Tom Carney said. "He's had to do homework in the car on the way to practice. That's since he was 12. He's never complained. I think he's always understood that he had to play where folks knew increasingly more and more."
All of the help that Jacob Carney has received over the years has certainly helped him in almost every aspect. One aspect that has always been there for Jacob Carney was his hitting.
Sherando coach Pepper Martin said he could remember seeing Jacob Carney hitting in Sherando's batting cage when he was around 10.
"He had shaggy blonde hair. He didn't even look like a baseball player until he got in the cage," Martin said. "I saw him swing. And the only thing I told coach Carney at the time is don't you dare let any of his coaches from here on out until he reaches high school touch his swing. Don't let them change anything. He had a sweet swing at the age of 9 and 10.
"In over 30 years of coaching baseball he's got one of the sweetest swings of any of the players I've had play for me. As far as mechanically -- perfect swing."
That perfect swing has helped the Warriors a lot the past four years. As a freshman Jacob Carney played several infield positions when needed, or the outfield, or he was the designated hitter. He then moved full-time to second base in his sophomore season.
Last year he set a school record, finishing with a .546 batting average. This season he's been just as strong for the Warriors.
Jacob Carney is hitting .467, with 26 runs scored and 23 RBIs and adds another big bat in Sherando's solid lineup.
Tom Carney said he thinks his defense is what has improved the most over the last few years.
"The biggest improvement has been on defense -- the footwork, how to approach balls," Tom Carney said. "Situational stuff -- when to throw a ball where, when to back up, when to go forward."
Next year Jacob Carney will play at Shepherd University, where he will play for former Sherando standout Matt McCarty. Earlier this season, Carney broke McCarty's record for hits in a career.
This season Jacob Carney has helped lead the Warriors to a 24-1 record, and the team will play Amherst on Friday in the Group AA state semifinals at Calfee Park in Pulaski at 10 a.m.
If the Warriors win on Friday, the seniors would be playing in the state final Saturday instead of graduating with their classmates. If that happens, Sherando's six seniors will receive their diplomas on the field after the game.
Jacob Carney said he tries not to think too far ahead, but admitted it would be fun to receive his diploma on one of the places he loves most -- a baseball field.
"It would be nice, because not many people can say they've graduated on the baseball field," Jacob Carney said. "It would be fun for all six seniors to go out that way."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org