After a two-year absence the AHSCA All-Star Games return and for El Dorado’s Austin Jobe and Parkers Chapel’s Mason Dougan, who will be teammates for the West All-Stars in today’s baseball game, the occasion not only marks the ending of their high school careers, but is also the culmination of how far they have come in the last year.
Jobe did not pitch during the 2021 high school season while recovering from labrum surgery and didn’t take the mound until June 11 of last year while pitching for the Arkansas Sticks.
For Dougan, it was a matter of waiting his turn. As a junior, Dougan worked only 18 innings with Trace Shoup, Reid Cates and Caleb Barnes serving as the Trojans’ top three starters last year.
Now they are All-Stars who will soon be starting their college careers with Jobe headed to Crowder (Mo.) Community College and Dougan to National Park College.
Jobe helped lead El Dorado to the state tournament, going 6-1 with a 1.24 ERA. In 45 innings of work, Jobe allowed just 29 hits, walked 14 and struck out 71.
“The season went over pretty well for not only me, but the team as well,” Jobe said. “It’s a big deal. It really is. Not many people get to do it, so to be nominated and wear El Dorado across my chest is a big deal.”
The Wildcats won 17 of 18 games during a torrid stretch, and Jobe said that run is something he won’t forget.
“We started off 3-2, and we were like, ‘Alright, this is going to be one of those .500 years,’ but that winning streak after we lost to Benton, that’s something I will never forget,” Jobe said. “That was special. Going out there each day and giving it 110 percent. I think us seniors laid a pretty good foundation for El Dorado baseball. It was the first time El Dorado had been to the state tournament in four years, so it was a big deal. It really was. It didn’t end the way we wanted to, but that’s baseball.”
Heading into his senior year, Dougan was being counted on to join Barnes at the top of the rotation, and he delivered, earning All-State honors while going 6-6 with a 1.16 ERA. In 54 1/3 innings, Dougan allowed 26 hits. He walked 32 and racked up 101 strikeouts while aiding the Trojans to the regional tournament.
“I had a great year with PC,” Dougan said. “I was able to make a lot of improvements this year with my pitching. My accuracy and velocity increased a lot this year. I really came a long way. It really helped me to be so dominant this year. I had a great senior season with my team. Obviously, I wish we would’ve gone further, but I think we had a great year.”
Dougan added that he is looking forward to today’s festivities.
“I was very excited,” Dougan said. “It’s a great honor to get the opportunity to play in that game. I’m thankful that I’m able to get this opportunity. It’s a big deal for me. I’m really excited for it.”
A year ago, the Wildcats narrowly missed the state tournament, and Jobe said the Wildcats’ seniors had a chip on their shoulder going into 2022.
“Last year, we played Sheridan and Lake Hamilton in our last two games, and we knew we had to beat both of them to get to the state tournament, and you can’t put that kind of pressure on a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kid saying, ‘You’ve got to win these two games or you’re not in the state tournament,’” Jobe said. “We had that pressure of knowing, and when we saw that, I’m not going to say that it scared us, but it definitely played a role in the way that we played. Just thinking back, if I remember right, we lost to Lake Hamilton and it wasn’t close. After that, the Sheridan game didn’t matter. I played with the seniors since I was four. We knew years ago that if we were going to make a run, it would be this year because we had played together and our chemistry is absolutely insane.
“We were leading in the conference all year long, but we dropped down to two after we lost the last three games of the season. Do you want to be the one seed? Yes, but seeding doesn’t mean much in the tournament. It’s just a team you’re playing. It was a big deal for us to get into the top four since the season before we weren’t in. I would say it was a chip off our shoulders. Hopefully the foundation we laid carries over to next year. I think they’ve got a good chance next year.”
The Trojans had a wealth of freshmen on the roster that played key roles, and Dougan said he is excited to see how that core develops.
“I think the future is very bright,” Dougan said. “A lot of our team were freshmen, and they came out and performed. They’re young and had some inexperience, but as they grow, they look very promising. I’m very optimistic about the future.”
Both Jobe and Dougan are members of the Arkansas Sticks, and each has been able to get some work in since the end of the high school season.
“I’ve pitched in three games since the end of the season,” Jobe said. “I’ve been busy. My body feels pretty good. I’m still in season form, so it’s allowed me to do what I like to do. I’m not the type of person to be able to sit in the house and not do something that I love, so when I hear there’s a baseball tournament in Monroe (La.), you better believe Austin Jobe is going to be there no matter what it is. I’m loving it.
“My body feels the best it’s felt in I can’t tell you how long. My shoulder is good. My elbow is good. I’m staying busy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what I love doing, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
Dougan said he’s been focused on building strength during the summer along with getting innings.
“I’ve only had two outings. I haven’t pitched very much, but I’ve been pitching at about the same level as during high school,” Dougan said. “I’ve been focusing a lot on weight training, so I haven’t been throwing as much.”
The PC standout said he hopes to get more work on the mound before getting started at National Park.
“I definitely want to get as many innings as I can and improve as much as possible this summer and get a lot of experience under my belt,” Dougan said. “I’m definitely looking to increase my strength and velocity to be prepared for the college level. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about doing. I’m ready to go to college and work hard and play for as long as I can.”
And while Jobe is certainly all business on the field, there is a lighter side to him that was shown with his curious choice of Wham!’s “Careless Whisper” as his walk-up music before he came to the plate to bat.
“If you don’t know me, people that see me on the field, they see serious, competitive, go get ‘em, no joking around, but if you know me off the field, I’m a totally different dude,” Jobe said. “During football season, I was front and center of the 12th man, I was at every single pep rally, I was decked out everywhere I go. I like to be light. I like to make people laugh. I’m not as serious as people take me out to be. If you know me off the field, I’m a pretty fun guy to be around.”
With today’s All-Star Game being the first to be played in person since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will there be some extra adrenaline kicking in? For Dougan, the answer was yes.
“For sure,” he said.