Baseball Freshman Feature: Luke Yacinich
Freshman pitcher and infielder Luke Yacinich comes from a hardcore baseball family. Every single male in his family has played baseball at or above the collegiate level, as his father played at Grand View University, where Luke’s grandfather has been the coach for 45 seasons. His brother, Jake, reached the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels before becoming a coach at Xavier. With strong ties to baseball, Luke began playing as soon as he was eligible for tee-ball, where he quickly developed his game and developed a passion.
Hailing from Adel, Iowa, Luke attended Dowling Catholic High School where he enjoyed success as both a hitter and a pitcher. During his senior year, Luke posted a .376 on-base percentage and .375 slugging percentage, as well as one home run and a perfect five stolen bases on five attempts. He also posted a 4.23 ERA while striking out 39 batters in 43 innings pitched. His success made him an honorable mention for the 2017 Perfect Game Preseason Underclassman All-American team and ranked as the fourth best shortstop in Iowa.
The Cornell coaching staff first saw Luke by watching his scouting videos and it wasn’t until October of his senior year that he made his first trip to Ithaca. He entertained offers from Iowa, South Dakota State University, Air Force, and many junior colleges, but ultimately landed on Cornell due to the competitiveness of Division I and the education of an Ivy League university.
Luke is a rare breed, as he is the only member of the Big Red baseball team that is being utilized as both a hitter and a pitcher. “I enjoy both equally, but pitching is my stronger side”, Luke exclaimed. He says that he likes that challenges and opportunities presented by both hitting and pitching and understands that must commit to the taxing schedule of being a two-way player. During fall practice, Luke spent a majority of the time pitching while also shifting to first base to get some hitting and infield reps. Interestingly enough, while Luke believes that pitching is his stronger side, he models his game after recently retired Mets third baseman David Wright, whom he began to idolize after watching him in a Home Run Derby.
As a freshman, Luke notes that the transition to Division I baseball has certainly required more dedication from both the training and academic perspective. When asked about how he used winter break to prepare himself for the upcoming season, Luke stated that he followed a well-regimented lifting and training schedule as well as worked on gaining weight. He views the pace of play to be the most noticeable difference between high school and college level competition. His transition into college life did not come without the usual mistakes, as he caught himself taking a bus in the other direction when trying to get to a 9 AM practice. Chalk that up as a learning experience that every freshman eventually encounters.
Luke already looks to be viewed as an impact player by the Cornell coaching staff, as he made two pitching appearances in the team’s first nine games, including starting one at Virginia Commonwealth University. Regarding these expectations as a freshman, Luke said “I don’t feel a lot of pressure. I just go out and do my thing because I know the coach trusts in me.” As he works on developing as both a pitcher and a hitter, Luke’s goals are to remain as flexible as possible in order to help Cornell compete for the Ivy League championship whether is by hitting, pitching, or playing defense.