North Hall’s Jace Bowen has never been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment on the baseball field.
Whether it was helping the Trojans claim the 2021 Class 3A state championship against Franklin County last month or some of his first varsity action in the 2019 postseason, Bowen has been ready.
And his consistency has been noticed.
On Sunday, the North Hall shortstop was picked as the Class 3A Player of the Year from the Georgia Dugout Club, which is largely a product of making two of the biggest plays in the deciding third game of the state championship series on May 24 at Coolray Field.
This season, Bowen hit .353 and got on base 47% of the time, with five doubles, five triples, 38 RBIs and 44 runs scored for the top-ranked Trojans. Defensively, Bowen had a .940 fielding percentage.
“It feels really good to be picked as Player of the Year,” Bowen said. “I really had no idea they were giving out these awards yet. I just got to thank all my teammates for making me better. Thank the Lord for blessing me with the talent. And thank my parents for putting me in the opportunities to get better.”
In 2021, North Hall earned its second baseball state championship, which goes with the one it won in 2017.
Also for the state champions, junior pitchers Jaret Bales and Eli Reece were First-Team All-State picks, along with senior centerfielder Jay Johnson.
In Class 4A, Flowery Branch catcher Kaleb Freeman, second baseman JB Bell and pitcher Jake Beaver were also tabbed first-team All-state.
With the state championship trophy on the line in Game 3 against Franklin County, Bowen was phenomenal at the plate and defensively.
North Hall coach Trevor Flow said that Bowen, typically a soft-spoken person, perks up once it’s time to play.
“Jace does a good job keeping his demeanor under control,” Flow said. “He’s quiet but has a competitive nature. He works his tail off out there for us.”
With the state-title game still scoreless in the top of the sixth inning, Flow asked his mild-mannered No. 3 hitter to get a rally started.
“Without even batting an eye, he said ‘I got you coach,” Flow said.
Bowen responded by roping a hard-hit triple down the right-field line.
Once he slid in safely, Bowen jumped up to flex for his exuberant teammates in the first-base dugout, while Flow, only a few feet away, was pumping both of his fists with the lead-off runner in scoring position.
Bowen scored on a sacrifice fly with one out, which proved the first of two game-defining plays he made in the 1-0 decision for North Hall.
With Franklin County up to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, Bowen made a run-saving stop on a blistering grounder, that if it had made the outfield, would have plated a run for the Lions.
Instead, Bowen made an immediately-reflexive dive toward the hole to knock the ball down and keep the lead runner at third base.
“He’s a kid who makes that same play 6 or 7 times in every practice,” Flow said. “He’s done it probably 100 times in practice. When we got to the crucial moment in the game, he reacted the same way.”
North Hall’s coach said that Bowen already has interest from Division-II schools for baseball and will possibly start getting Division-I calls after garnering state Player of the Year honors.
“To get 3A Player of the Year is a pretty big deal because there’s a lot of good players, but Jace earned it,” Flow said.
Flow said that Bowen is a ‘late bloomer’ for college baseball scouts, but can do everything well on the diamond. Part of Bowen’s rapid ascent is the fact that the second half of his sophomore season was cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bowen said he still doesn’t have any official scholarship offers from any schools.
“Jace has a body type where he could put on 25 pounds and still be just as fast,” Flow said.
The big plays in the state championship series are the latest in Bowen’s great body of work for North Hall.
It started just as memorable for him, Flow said.
In 2019, Bowen made a defensive stab from second base in the state quarterfinals that his teammates, coaches and friends are still talking about.
Without a ton of varsity experience, Bowen got the nod to start from his coach in the first game of the third-round series at Appling County.
Right away, Bowen was challenged.
And just like in the state championship weekend, he was ready.
On a hard-hit grounder that hit a rock and started to skip over Bowen’s head, he instinctively barehanded it with his right hand and threw over to first base for the out.
From that moment forward, Bowen has been a staple in the infield for North Hall.
And, next season, he’s one of eight expected returning starters for the state champions.