VIRGINIA — A student of the game of baseball, recent Virginia graduate Jack Perala has a lot to look back on in his high school baseball career — and a lot of college ball to look forward to in the years to come.
A starting pitcher for the Blue Devils since his freshman year, Perala’s status as Virginia’s ace is undisputed. The righty pitched nearly 110 innings over 27 appearances on the mound, posted a career ERA of 2.62 and finished his high school career with 198 strikeouts, 84 of which came in his senior season.
Equally devastating at the plate, Perala put up a .528 batting average in his senior year, finishing with a career average of .474. He collected 91 hits in 192 at bats, batted in 50 runs for his team, recorded 31 extra base hits and knocked four balls straight out of the park.
One thing was certain when teams came to play Virginia: You had to watch out for Jack Perala.
For his efforts this season and throughout his career, Perala has been named the All-Iron Range Baseball Player of the Year by the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
More than just a baseball player, Perala prides himself on being a multi-sport athlete, participating in the fine arts, and volunteering his time in other extra-curricular activities. If he has the time, you can undoubtedly find him at nearly any Blue Devil function, something he said he made an effort to do all throughout high school.
“The way I go about life is to try and lead by example,” Perala said Wednesday at Stock Field. “I try to make sure that people are going to all the games, whether it’s volleyball or hockey or basketball. Even this year, for the first time, I went to a soccer game and a wrestling match.”
A Blue Devil through and through, Perala looked to make the most of his time in high school.
“It was just about getting to experience it all and letting people know that there’s more things out there for them to try out. Every time I went to a game or anything really, I was just having fun.”
Perala will get to rep the Blue Devils one more time this weekend after being selected to represent Northern Minnesota and play in the 45th Annual Play Ball Minnesota High School All-Stars Series in Chaska. An honor to be selected, Perala expressed what it meant to be chosen for the series.
“It was really exciting to see myself on a list of names with guys that were drafted this past spring in the MLB draft. Everyone that was selected is just a real solid
player. So I was really surprised to be selected but I’m excited to go down and play baseball with them. It was relieving to know my hard work paid off.”
Perala will keep busy for the next few weeks with the Virginia American Legion baseball team before he heads to Duluth to attend school and play baseball at St. Scholastica. A student first and an athlete second, Perala said education was his primary motivation for choosing CSS.
Really, the school and the academics was what drew me there,” Perala explained. I’m going for a degree in biochemistry so I had to pick a place that had that. Scholastica has a really great program and I think it’ll be an exciting start to what I plan on doing after baseball. I love baseball, but academics was probably the biggest reason I chose St. Scholastica.”
On the game of baseball itself, Perala says he’s drawn to two aspects of the sport: the camaraderie with his teammates and the mental aspect of using failure to get better.
“I really enjoy that there’s a lot of guys out on the team. There are a lot of different personalities to get to know and really you just get to spend a nice day outside with the guys whether it’s at a game or practice. Sometimes we’re screwing around or having fun but then we all know how to get down to business when we need to.
“But mentally, the tough thing about baseball is that you fail the majority of the time. It’s really something that helps you learn and build your mind and it can help in more than just baseball. If you fail in life, then you can use your experiences in baseball to figure out how to do better the next time. You can adjust it just like you would a baseball game.”
One example of Perala’s baseball experience come in handy was this past year in a home game against North Woods.
Perala, on first base with the game tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh, recognized that the Grizzlies new pitcher was young and possibly not so experienced. With himself on first and a runner on third, he signaled to his head coach Brian Skadsem that he wanted to try and take advantage of the situation he found himself in.
On the first move of the pitcher, Perala took off from first and the Grizzlies’ pitcher balked, allowing the winning run to come home and score from third. According to his head coach, situations like that are a testament to how dedicated Perala is to the game.
“He’s just been around the game an awful lot,” Skadsem said. “He just loves the game. He seems to really understand all the little intricacies about the game on both offense and defense. He’s certainly wise beyond his years.”
Perala reiterated that experience was the key factor in causing the unexpected balk.
“I saw that situation come up through all the experience I had in the game. Sometimes, I was that kid that was balking in runs when I was young. It was great that I could make that happen but it was even better that coach Skadsem trusted in us as players to make it happen.”
With many years of the game still ahead of Perala, Skadsem believes that the only way is up for his recently graduated star.
“I think that he’ll continue to improve. He’s always been a student of the game and he doesn’t think he knows everything about it. He wants to keep learning and is willing to help improve himself for his team to get better.”
Getting to this point, Perala said, would not be possible without his coaches and parents guiding him along the way.
“I want to thank Coach Skadsem and Coach [Steve] Golobich and all the other baseball coaches that helped me throughout my career. I want to thank Coach [Rich] Odell and Coach [Derek] Aho. Even though they’re basketball coaches, they still helped me with life and with other things as well.
“And really, I want to thank my family for just coming to all my games and packing me extra lunches and thinks like that. Doing the little things that mean the most to me.”
With his chapter as a Blue Devil about to come to a close, Perala says he’s ready for whatever comes next.
“I know there’s more baseball ahead of me. It’s good to know that there’ll still be the Blue Devils that I played with that I can keep in touch with. I know the Blue Devil will never die in me and now that I’m going to St. Scholastica, I get to be reborn as a Saint and that’s another team that I can’t wait to be a part of.”
Alongside Perala, members of the 2019 All-Iron Range Baseball Team include:
Eli Sundquist, Sr., Chisholm; Tyler Housey, Sr., Ely; Trevor Mattson, Sr., Ely; Zach Lindseth, Jr., Eveleth-Gilbert; Brandon Lind, So., Eveleth-Gilbert; Ty Karnes, Sr., Grand Rapids; Owen Linder, Jr., Grand Rapids; Rob Parendo, Sr., Mesabi East; Blace Tomberlin, Jr., Hibbing.
Honorable mentions to the 2019 All-Iron Range Baseball Team include: Gavin Constantine, Jr., Cherry; Justin Caple, Jr., Cherry; Will Durie, Sr., Hibbing; Gideon Beck, Jr., Grand Rapids; Carter Thome, Sr., Virginia; Jake Hyppa, Sr., North Woods; Dalton Schreffler, Jr., Ely; Spencer Engel, Jr., Nashwauk-Keewatin.