Jake Gelof Provides Powerful Punch For Virginia

Virginia Jake Gelof
Jake Gelof has connected on 19 home runs this season for Virginia. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

15 games into the 2021 Virginia baseball season, freshman Jake Gelof had played in five and started two. 38 games into the campaign he had appeared in 13 outings, starting four.

Starting with game 39, a 6-5 Cavalier win over Liberty, and for the following 79 consecutive games, Gelof has been listed as a starter on the UVA lineup card.

After breaking through from a mop-up and pinch-hitting role in the first half of the 2021 season to getting into the starting lineup, it took a couple of weeks for Gelof to hit his stride. The then rookie first baseman was hitting a pedestrian .167, going 4 for 24, had a couple extra-base hits, posted a .292 slugging percentage, and had fanned nine times. Numbers that today are incomprehensible when talking about Gelof.     

Gelof, however, ended his inaugural season with a .252 batting average, went 28 for 111 from the plate, bumped his slugging percentage up .176 percentage points and more than doubled his early season on-base percentage from .160 up to .336: a 52% jump. 

UVA coach Brian O’Connor said the increased playing time and more reps at the dish made a difference.

“The first half of the year, he just didn’t get any opportunities,” O’Connor said. “We had such a veteran team and he was a young freshman and just didn’t get at-bats.  As the season went on … I started sprinkling him in the lineup and started giving him opportunities.”

Gelof agreed saying the extra at-bats and seeing more pitches gave him confidence at the plate.

“It’s tough being a pinch hitter and trying to prove yourself that way,” Gelof said. “You always have to be ready and that’s what I wasn’t. Later in the year, I just started to prove myself. I think at the end there I earned my spot. I earned myself a couple of games.”

Gelof made decent offensive contributions through the end of the regular season. With respect to power numbers, his production was limited. In 63 at-bats in 23 games, he produced 6 extra base hits, 0 home runs, 9 RBIs, a .413 slugging percentage and a 0.755 OPS.  But things started to change when it got to ACC Tournament and NCAA time.  

In his second career postseason game against Notre Dame, Gelof launched his first career home run in UVA’s 14-1 ACC Tournament victory over the Irish.  A week later, he collected his second career round-tripper in game one of the Columbia Regional in a one-run loss to South Carolina.  In game three of the Regional he tallied 2 doubles, his third homer and 3 RBI. Overall, in 15 postseason games, Gelof netted his first 4 career home runs and 6 extra base hits. He doubled his regular season total bases from 26 to 52 and added 55 points to his slugging percentage and 49 points to his OPS.       

Gelof said the difference was gaining confidence with the increased playing time last spring.  

“Once you get the first [home run], you get that feeling in you,” he said. “It comes naturally after the first one. Having that and being confident enough to go out there and confident at the plate, seeing pitches in the zone and just trying to do damage.”  

O’Connor believes Gelof’s approach at the plate was responsible for that late season power surge and it has continued into 2022.

“He had an aggressive approach and it paid off for him and he started hitting some balls out of the ballpark,” O’Connor said. “What allows him to do that and allowed him to do it last year was that he’s aggressive. He’s going to be up there getting his money’s worth.  He’s going to strike out some.  When