Skip to content

Patient approach at the plate lands Jake English in KU record book

From walks to grand slams & everything in between, senior catcher has delivered a monster season & he's not done yet

6 min read
Kansas senior Jake English takes a lead off of second base during the Jayhawks' game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri earlier this season. [Chance Parker photo]

For the better part of the 2024 college baseball season, KU senior Jake English has been tearing the cover off of the ball.

The Olathe native, who plays some first base, some catcher and also has been known to handle designated hitter duties, leads the team in home runs (12), RBIs (41), slugging percentage (.714), total bases (90) and walks (34) and is second in batting average (.357) and runs scored (41).

While a handful of those numbers grab headlines, it’s the least heralded of the bunch that put English in the KU record book.

Earlier this season, during a 14-4 road win at Cincinnati, English tied the program record for walks in a game, with five.

While those other stats are more exciting and tend to draw bigger cheers, English’s ability to crush homers and collect walks is tied to the exact same skill — patience.

“I just try to get a good pitch to hit and if I don’t get one, I’m not gonna swing at it,” he recently told R1S1 Sports of his approach at the plate. “It kind of just happened to be all in one game where they weren’t really throwing me any good pitches to hit. That leads to deeper counts and then they throw it out of the zone with three balls.”

Sounds simple enough. But there’s actually a lot more to it than that. In fact, English said his ability to get on base — via walk or base hit — is tied to his consistent approach at the plate.

“Early in the at-bat, if I get the pitch I’m looking for then I’ll swing at it,” English said. “But if it’s not right there, then I’m gonna take it and work an at-bat. It kind of works that way for every pitch in the at-bat, until you get to two strikes and then you’ve gotta get defensive. Just because you see a pitch and it’s a strike, you don’t have to swing at it just because it’s a strike. Make sure you get one that you can hit good.”

If there’s one drawback to his good eye in the batter’s box, it’s that it can carry him into a lull. While that doesn’t always lead to bad results, it can make him a little less sharp, especially when the walks start to pile up in any given game.

“Early in the count, I’ll take because I’ve been taking all game,” he said. “Sometimes when that happens, I get a little too passive when I’m hitting.”

That was exactly the way Pat Karlin, the man whose walks record English tied from 1988, approached the game.

And Karlin was shocked when his group text thread with a few former teammates blew up after English recorded his five-walk night.

“That was not the record of mine I thought someone would tie,” Karlin told R1S1 Sports. “I thought it would be a stolen base record or something like that. The walks record wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.”

When he played, the bulk of Karlin’s job was to get on base. For one, he was always on the shorter side and opposing pitchers had a harder time finding the strike zone when facing him. For two, when he got on base, he did not stay at first base very often.

Karlin still owns the school’s career stolen bases record, with 114, and is tied for most stolen bases in a single season with 42. Nine more for English this season would give him that mark.

“I’m obviously not a Jake English, middle-of-the-order guy,” Karlin said. “The emphasis for me was to work counts and find a way to be able to get on. It was always, ‘Hey, I can do damage when I get on.’”

KU's Jake English ropes a ball to the outfield during a recent KU home game at Hoglund Ballpark. [Chance Parker photo]

Like English, Karlin also was super-selective while at-bat.

“After the first two or three (balls), I’m going, ‘I don’t have as big of a strike zone and I can turn a walk into extra bases because I can steal a bag or two,” Karlin said.

He continued: “Normally when you’re swinging it like Jake does and can, you’re going hunting for pitches to hit early in the count. I’ve been following him during this stretch and that’s one of the things I’ve been most impressed by. You don’t get on runs like this without having pretty good zone discipline and he’s obviously seeing it well.”

Even before tying Karlin’s record, English considered drawing walks as one of his biggest strengths.

His natural eye combined with the offensive approach brought to the program by second-year coach Dan Fitzgerald seemed to be a match made in a nondescript corn field in Iowa. English credits Fitzgerald for helping him sharpen his eye at the plate, which has led not only to more walks but also to better at-bats overall.

“You’re gonna get more hits when you swing at good pitches to hit,” he said, noting that his favorite pitches to swing at are “over the middle of the plate, right where every hitter wants it.”

“The coaches have continued pound into our heads to keep getting that pitch to hit. Some pitches I probably could swing at and could hit, but sometimes it’s good to take pitches to up the pitcher’s pitch count, too.”

While English conceded that the record, though somewhat lackluster by highlight standards, was one he thinks will be cool to look back on someday, he doesn’t care much about any of the individual achievements.

“I mean, it’s cool,” he said. “When you’re looking at the stat book and your name’s in there, that’s always cool. But I just want to win. If you care more about the team than yourself then it’ll happen the way it should.”

KU catcher Jake English looks to the dugout during the Jayhawks' game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium earlier this season. [Chance Parker photo]

That’s similar to the way Karlin still views it. The former Jayhawk still lives in Lawrence and has coached his own sons onto college careers of their own. He also has coached countless other young baseball players along the way.

He heard from some of them, when English tying his record hit social media, and he said it was pretty cool to look back on it and see that something he did, “stood the test of time.”

Above all, though, he’s still a Jayhawk, and he’d rather see the current generation continue to kill it even if that means erasing his name from the record books.

“I want them to be successful,” Karlin said. “And if those guys are tying and breaking my records or any other records from the past, that’s a great sign for the program.”

It’s not just English who has been a monster on the diamond this season. Records — especially of the team variety — have been tied or broken rather regularly this season, and the Jayhawks (21-15 overall, 9-9 Big 12) still have 15 regular season games remaining and whatever postseason fate awaits after that.

“I think it’s been a bigger year than ever for the whole team,” he said. “We’re obviously way better than we have been my entire time here. It’s been awesome. We’re turning the program around a little bit and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Fresh off of taking two out of three at Baylor over the weekend, English and the Jayhawks will head to Nebraska for one game on Tuesday night before returning home for a Big 12 series against Texas Tech this weekend at Hoglund Ballpark.

— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit