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West Ranch's Jagger Rusconi: First contact

West Ranch freshman is drawing attention at the plate in his debut varsity season

Posted: May 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Despite being a 15-year-old freshman, West Ranch’s Jagger Rusconi is a contact hitter from both sides of the plate. The Foothill League has taken notice.

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Don’t play Ping-Pong with Jagger Rusconi.

It’s almost as if he sees the tiny white orb in slow motion.

It’s nearly impossible to get a shot past him.

During team dinners, Rusconi has shown a prowess for being a dominant Ping-Pong player.

It’s the same sort of game pitchers have been playing with the West Ranch High freshman this season — try and get the ball past him.

Yet Jagger Rusconi is the contact hitter.

“It’s funny. When you hit varsity baseball, especially in our league, these kids can all hit. There’s certain players where a bat just lingers in the strike zone. It gets in the strike zone, almost stops and stays in there,” says West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “Then you see it whip through after making contact with the ball. He’s one of those guys.”

Yet he’s a rarity.

It’s rare to expect a 15-year-old to be on top of fastballs from 17- and 18-year-olds. It’s also rare for a 15-year-old to connect consistently with awkward-moving offspeed pitches.

Yet Rusconi, the freshman, does it.

“His baseball skills are clearly beyond that of a typical freshman,” Burrill says. “He has great hand-eye coordination. Probably the best I’ve seen do it from both sides of the plate.”

Oh yeah. In another rarity, Rusconi is a switch hitter — a trait that has been rarely seen in the Santa Clarita Valley in recent memory. Burrill says he can’t recall another one who has had success doing it in the Foothill since 2003, when Burrill coached Saugus High and had switch-hitting catcher Mike Scripture.

Rusconi is second on the Wildcats with a .408 batting average and is batting .455 in Foothill League play. He has also knocked in 21 runs and scored 27 runs.

Rusconi says he’s been able to have early success because he wasn’t intimidated going into the season.

He held a firm belief that he would be able to hang with the older kids.

The middle infielder got a little advice coming into the situation.

“My brother and dad just told me not to let other people intimidate me, no matter what,” Rusconi says. “Just try and strive to meet your potential, work hard and be humble.”

Rusconi’s father, John, is a major reason for his ability to make contact.

The 15-year-old says he developed his hand-eye coordination before he even arrived in elementary school.

John would take his sons Jagger and Nico into the hallway of their home. He would toss golf ball-sized Whiffle Balls at the boys and they would hit them with little souvenir bats they purchased from Dodger Stadium.

“My mom would get mad because she didn’t want us to break anything,” Rusconi says.

But it paid off — as did other work. Rusconi says his father invested in a lot of equipment to make him and his older brother better baseball players.

In two varsity seasons (2009, 2010), Nico had 81 hits.

In 2010, he had 44 hits and established a school record with a .484 batting average.

“As far as the contact goes, my dad put emphasis on hand-eye coordination,” Nico says. “Both of us, the goal was low strikeouts, get the bat on the ball.”

Unfortunately for Nico, a shoulder injury prevented him from playing beyond high school.

He’s a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University studying business with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.

Nico says he can now live his baseball hopes vicariously through his younger brother.

“I know at a very young age, when he was 4 or 5, he was playing with 6- and 7-year-olds and he was the most passionate and driven player,” Nico says. “(Now) he has the potential to be amazing.”

One thing that drives Nico is to eclipse the standard his older brother set at West Ranch.

Both are ultra-fast.

Nico won’t say if his brother is faster than him, yet.

But as a hitter, Jagger has an early jump.

Unlike a lot of young players, he has a refined approach.

No matter what side of the plate he bats from, he tries to stay upright — almost emulating the stance of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. He wants his swing to be compact. No matter what kind of contact he makes, he has another advantage because his speed can force fielders to rush.

In terms of learning the game, he says he asks his teammates questions about other pitchers’ stuff so he can walk up to the plate with a game plan.

Once he’s in the batter’s box, it’s Ping-Pong.

And in Ping-Pong, Jagger Rusconi usually wins.

661-287-5529

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