Junior college transfer Jacob Adams has experienced his fair share of adversity in his first year with the Ole Miss baseball program. The junior, hailing from Conway, Arkansas, took the field on the first official day of the 2018 Road to Omaha with a determined mindset, and the last thing on his mind was a fall without baseball.
That’s exactly what Adams received, however, on the opening day of practice last fall, when a simple awkward landing resulted in a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot and months away from the game he loved.
“I was taking ground balls the very first day of fall practice,” he said, “and it was just a play that I’ve done a thousand times in my life. I landed on my foot in a weird way, and I was out for three months. I wasn’t even walking for like a month, and then I was rehabbing for another month.”
On impact, Adams knew the injury was serious, but the extent would prove to be detrimental to the young Rebel middle infielder.
“As soon as I landed on it, I could hear it crack, and I could feel it pop,” Adams said. “I knew it was more than a rolled ankle, so I hobbled off the field and talked to our trainer, and told him something didn’t feel right, something was off.”
The second baseman attempted to play through the pain the following day, but it was simply too much to bear.
“Next day, I taped it up and came out here and tried to put pressure on it and run, and I just couldn’t do it,” Adams said.
Adams was out of the game, at least for the fall, and relegated to “the scooter,” as he liked to refer to his only way to maneuver around for the first couple months. The newfound Rebel was devastated, and he knew his already challenging path to a starting job just got a whole lot tougher.
“It was devastating, honestly,” Adams said. “I was really excited about the fall and ready to get out there with my teammates that I had just gotten to know, and I was looking forward to building relationships with them on the field. It was definitely a tough time, going out there the first day and getting shut down after having been so excited for the year.”
His teammates also felt his pain, most notably sophomore and fellow middle infielder Grae Kessinger, who resides just a few feet from Adams in games, defending the infield on the other side of second base at the shortstop position.
“It was tough watching him go down right as practice was getting started,” Kessinger said. “Everyone was excited to see what he had to bring to the table. One thing that we saw very early on though was that he had a great work ethic. He was out throwing and doing all he could while he couldn’t practice, so you knew if he was healthy he was going to work his butt off to get on the field.”
The former shortstop from Crowder College in Missouri had journeyed to Oxford with high expectations, having earned his offer following a season that saw his team make the Junior College World Series, and Adams make his mark with a .356 clip at the plate.
The Rebels had recently lost their second basemen from the 2017 campaign, captain Tate Blackman, who was taken in the MLB Draft, and Adams was a prime candidate for replacing the former Rebel before practice began.
“Jacob is just a ballplayer,” said Kessinger “He just plays solid defense, good hitter, can run, and knows the game of baseball. Losing a guy like Tate, there will always be a little getting used to because they are different players, but Jacob brings a lot to the table in his own right. It’s been fun to watch him play the game.“
Following the injury, however, Adams had a difficult journey ahead of him to maintain the same impact he brought a year prior in Missouri. Instead of worrying about his position though, No. 1 was all focused.
“I wasn’t afraid, I just knew I had to get in there and work my butt off,” Adams said. “I knew I had to work harder than if I wouldn’t have gotten hurt, but I did, I worked hard, and I’m ready to go now.”
Work hard he did, as the first-year Rebel made his starting debut at Swayze Field during the opening series vs. Winthrop, recording his first hit in an Ole Miss jersey since going down just months prior with a major injury.
Adams admits he owes some credit to guys like Kessinger and fellow second basemen (as well as first-year Rebel) Anthony Servideo, with whom Adams splits time with at second base.
“I think all three of us all push each other,” Adams said. “We all want to play, but we all want to push each other to success. Obviously, you want to play, but if Coach Bianco doesn’t put you in the lineup, you want the other guy to play well too. We all love each other like brothers.”
Adams has made his mark through just eight games in a Rebel uniform, helping guide the team to an 8-0 start, their best since 2008, with four starts under his belt and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage at second base. According to Kessinger, it’s just a testament to Adams’ incredibly determined work ethic.
“It says a tremendous amount about the guy,” Kessinger said. “It shows his work ethic, as well as the confidence he has to miss all fall and then jump in and not miss a beat. He will continue to get more comfortable and confident and it’s going to be fun to see.”
Adams’ story, from a debilitating injury to a starting bid opening week, is far from complete, admits the second baseman. His sole objective now is helping deliver the Rebels to their first appearance in Omaha and the College World Series since 2014.
“It’s a dream come true,” Adams said. “It’s great to be out there playing with my brothers, and I’m incredibly thankful to be on the diamond. Hopefully I can continue to help us win, and keep winning – all the way to Omaha.”