Jake Gozzo Lumbers Way To College Select Championship

California’s Jake Gozzo has always felt comfortable swinging a wood bat. That comfort showed in the clean and powerful swings Gozzo delivered with the lumber, which powered him to the College Select World Championship in Sunday’s 13th annual POWER SHOWCASE at Miami Marlins Park.

Gozzo smacked 10 home runs in the championship to defeat Virginia’s Nicholas Baham, who hit five home runs after going first in the head-to-head finale. Finding his groove and trusting his stroke, Gozzo blasted his way to the world title by the time the wood-bat portion of his championship round concluded.

“This is awesome; it is just a great feeling,” Gozzo said. “I had my mind set on it and it all came through, so it was pretty good. I just looked at it like it’s a big stadium, but the field dimensions are the same. I just stayed on my back foot and what I practiced in BP and took it here. I didn’t let anything affect me.”

The college players compete in a slightly different format. Unlike for younger showcase participants, the College Select derby uses live pitching instead of a pitching machine. Rather than receive a total allotment of outs, college players use a timed round in which they swing with wood for a portion and then metal for the other portion. Gozzo, a senior from Oklahoma Baptist University, reached the finals by hitting 12 home runs during the Preliminary Round, which included seven with the wood bat.

“Obviously in college ball we use metal, but every time we are in the cages it is all wood bat. I swing wood all the time and I just feel more comfortable with it,” Gozzo said. “There is no better feeling than the sound and the feel off a wood bat.”

Baham, a senior from Christopher Newport University, produced well with the wood bat as well. He also had seven jacks with wood during the Preliminary Round, while ending atop the leaderboard with 12 total as well. Baham had two homers with the wood bat in the finals, and his final bomb was his farghest at 384 feet.

There was no Wild Card berth, as Gozzo had the group long at 427 feet.

Knowing what total he needed to beat, Gozzo immediately carved away with his wooden stick. Deep shots rained out of Marlins Park as he inched his way to the top, clubbing a 411-foot bomb that finally clinched him the title. He then added one more 394-foot shot with the wood, and belted out three more with the metal bat to close his derby total at 22.

“It is not easy going first,” Gozzo admitted. “Going second, it was a lot easier to calm the nerves and stay focused. It really is an advantage to focus in on what you have to do. I wanted to win it with wood and it worked out.”

Gozzo cleaned up in the awards as well, taking nearly every one. He had the Most Preliminary Round homers, the Longest Distance, the Most Wood home runs overall and the Most Overall home runs.

Daniel Mendoza of St. Cloud Tech Community College won the award for the Most Consecutive home runs, with three.

Gozzo is only the third College Select champion, after a welcome addition to the showcase expanded to include college players three years ago. Each year the field has grown larger and more competitive as college players from around the country relish each invitation offered.

“Once you look past all of the expenses in coming out, it’s totally worth it,” Gozzo said. “You get your videos and you get your opportunity. Chances are most of us are never going to get a chance to play in this stadium again. It’s a great opportunity and it’s something you can’t take away. I would suggest it to every player that’s invited.”

By: Rick Duteau

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