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BRICKIES FIND THEIR SPLENDID SPLINTER THAT BRINGS HIS COMPLETE GAME

Thursday, May 5, 2011 • POSTED BY:  Hillary Smith - Times Correspondent

Jake Ehrlich's father was reading a book about Ted Williams. He learned about "The Splendid Splinter's" swing and what made him a .400 hitter. That the power came from the legs tipped off the elder Ehrlich. "He said, 'This is the approach we've got to take,'" said Jake Ehrlich, a Hobart junior. "We've got to get down, work our butts off, and I have to perfect it any way I can." Ehrlich was 10 years old. By the time he reached his freshman year in the Brickies baseball program, he was a patient hitter but stood smaller than 5-foot-5 and wasn't blowing away many pitchers. As he grew, he took to the weight room and continued to strengthen his entire body, from his legs to his arms, keeping his technique steady and allowing the force of his bat to come from his legs. He reached the varsity level this season, quickly making his mark as the Brickies' No. 2 hitter. Last week, he became the first batter in recent school history to hit home runs in three straight games, including one over the right-field wall during the RailCats High School Challenge. He added a fourth homer two games later. "His is the best swing we have, to be honest," Hobart coach Bob Glover Jr. said. "Fundamentally, we don't have anybody better. He's extremely short and quick to the ball, and the thing I love the most is that he's so disciplined. "As much as you can say about him as a baseball player, the key is that he rarely swings at bad pitches. When he finds one he can hit, he gets after it." To join his four homers, Ehrlich has 12 walks and has struck out six times. In the outfield, he hasn't made an error yet this season. "This season, I've just been seeing the ball real well," Ehrlich said. "When we were playing Lowell, the ball looked like a beach ball, I could see it so well." For the record, Ehrlich's homers have come against Bishop Noll, Lowell, Kankakee Valley at The Steel Yard and Griffith. Until this season, Ehrlich wasn't a varsity player. In fact, he was the 14th-best of 17 players on the freshman team two years ago, and though he played more regularly as a sophomore on the junior varsity last year, the lefty batted at the bottom of the order. "I have seen him working tirelessly since I got the job last year," Glover said. "He rarely misses an opportunity to work out and get better. ... He has done something in his hard work which is a challenge for high school kids to do, and that's really commit to seeing how good (he) can actually be if he puts everything he's got into this. "A lot of kids with talent, they're not made up to do that. For the most part, the talent was there for him, but he's really worked hard to hone it where he needs to be."