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Troy's Eisner the ultimate warrior on the mound
How could Jake Eisner forget the first pitch of his varsity career?
Called upon two years ago to make a spot start for Troy High, Eisner’s inaugural delivery was turned around some 350 feet. A loud extra-base hit.
Later that game, another of the freshman’s pitches was launched into the stratosphere. A towering two-run home run.
Troy lost, 5-3.
Welcome to varsity, kid.
Armed that afternoon with junior varsity stuff, Eisner threw four innings, took the loss and learned a valuable lesson.
“No matter how good you are,” he said, “there’ll always be someone better.”
Troy coach David Shirota remembers Eisner’s debut – how poorly it began, how valiantly it ended.
Someday, he thought, this freshman will earn his keep.
“That game, it’s your hope that it pays dividends two years down the line,” Shirota said.
Now a junior, Eisner is the nominal ace of a Troy staff laden with great pitchers.
And last week, for the first time in a decade, the Warriors captured the Freeway League championship.
“He asked me once if he was the ace,” Shirota said, “and I told him there’s no value in the word ‘ace.’ There’s only value in wins and losses. But I like that he has aspirations to have that title, and I love the attitude he has wanting to be the guy to get the ball.
“I won’t call him our ace, but in a big game, when we’re facing another team’s No. 1 pitcher, he’s on the mound.”
Eisner is the second of three boys, four minutes older than twin brother, Brett.
Born to a father who garnered water polo plaudits at Sunny Hills High and later at USC, Eisner grew up a competitor. He and Brett followed their older brother’s path and became baseball players, pitchers.
The sibling rivalry Eisner remembers fondly began in the backyard and flourished at local ballparks.
Eisner one year won nine games as a pitcher. His brother won 10.
“You grow up with someone you’re always competing against,” he said. “You’re always trying to be better than the other guy.”
Eisner played for his share of losing Little League teams.
He remembers finishing one season with a team record of 1-19. He remembers one team’s batting order being decided by drawing names out of a hat.
Eisner said he learned to hate losing before he learned to love winning.
Versatile as a youngster, Eisner earned playing time at every position. Coaches elected him to all-star teams.
At 11, he joined club, jumping from team to team. Tall for his age, he thrived on the mound.
“It feels great controlling the game,” Eisner said. “You have all the power. What you do on the mound determines what happens in a game.”
Troy in 2014 was coming off a five-win season – Shirota’s first at the school.
Eisner and his freshman classmates – former city all-star teammates – littered the junior varsity roster. Those lower-level Warriors won 13 Freeway League games. Varsity won nine.
“We knew this junior group was special,” Shirota said.
Eisner spent his first high school summer playing travel ball for Orange County Premier Baseball. In the spring, he was promoted to varsity.
Eisner last season pitched regularly behind two starters, but won only one game despite his sparkling earned-run average. He gave up 19 runs – only five of which were earned.
Eisner said fielding errors made by others during his starts last season often threw him off his game.
He wore his emotions on his sleeve.
“You have to keep your composure on the mound,” he said. “When things aren’t going your way, pouting about it won’t make it any better. You can’t let the other team know they got to you.
“You have to stay within yourself, rely on yourself.”
Neither of Eisner’s parents have his or his brothers’ height.
His 87-year-old grandmother, though, is 6-foot-1.
Eisner stands lean at 6-foot-3. Put him on an elevated pitcher’s mound, and batters are digging in opposite an intimidating figure.
The junior’s deceptive windup compensates partially for his lack of velocity. His fastball resides in the low 80s.
But Eisner throws three pitches for strikes, and when he’s feeling invincible, a knuckle-curve will find its way into his repertoire.
By no means is Eisner a flamethrower, but give him a spot on the corner to hit, and watch him hit it.
“He doesn’t throw overwhelmingly hard, but his offspeed is good, and he’s a competitor,” said Ryan Park, Troy’s fourth-year catcher and Eisner’s longtime friend. “He really battles.”
Eisner’s ERA at one point last week was 0.78, a product of his control and Troy’s defense, he said.
Defensively, the Warriors are better this year than they were last year. Shirota said on several occasions, defensive plays “saved our bacon.”
Eisner, Spencer Ferraiz, Brett Boller and Troy’s other pitchers don’t strike out many batters. Instead, they allow hitters to put the ball in play.
“They let the defense work,” Shirota said.
Troy last won a CIF-Southern Section baseball championship in 1987. Next year will be the 30th anniversary.
Eisner said since his freshman year, he and his classmates have talked about ending the championship drought as seniors.
They’re ahead of schedule.
“The guys on this team are close, especially the pitching staff,” Eisner said. “We trust one another, so nobody’s doing too much.”
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