PEABODY — Thursday at Higgins Middle School in Peabody, Tanners shortstop Jake Gustin made it official: he’ll be a Bryant Bulldog next fall.
The Peabody High senior signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career at the Division I baseball powerhouse Bryant University in Rhode Island.
The decision has been made for a while for Gustin, the Northeastern Conference’s reigning MVP. Then a rising junior at Peabody, Gustin made a verbal commitment to play at Bryant on a baseball scholarship last summer, but couldn’t officially sign his letter of intent until his senior year.
Gustin delivered a huge season for the Tanners last year, both with the bat and the glove. The shortstop hit .409 in 23 games, drove in 17 runs, scored 19 runs, hit two home runs and stole nine bases in his MVP season. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Gustin struck out just twice all year.
Gustin will look to remain either a shortstop or second baseman at Bryant, but he’s not too picky about what position he plays.
“That’s the goal, but I’ll play anywhere,” Gustin said. “As long as I’m playing.”
Gustin is just the second Peabody position player to commit to a Division I school in the last 10 years. But he’ll be following in the footsteps of another Peabody native, St. John’s Prep alum Brandon Bingel, who was a two-way player at Bryant for three years before being selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft.
“I’m pretty good friends (with Brandon),” Gustin said, “and I’ve been up to Bryant a couple of times, getting close with the team.”
One of the biggest draws for Gustin when it came to making a decision was the coaching staff at Bryant.
“Coach (Steve) Owens and Coach (Kyle) Pettoruto really caught my eye, they’re awesome guys and awesome coaches,” Gustin said. “They know the game really well, and they turned a small Division I program into a nationally-known one. Bryant is the place where I’ll play most and develop most as a player.”
Gustin said that his Peabody High coach, Mark Bettencourt, helped him reach the decision, even if Bettencourt had another school in mind as well.
“He helped me a good amount, but he went to (Boston College) and I think he was pulling for me to go there a little bit,” Gustin said. “But he thought I made the right decision in terms of playing time and where I’ll fit the best.”
Now that the decision about where to continue his career has been made official, Gustin can look forward to finishing out his time as a Tanner on a high note. The senior says that his time with Peabody has helped him prepare for what he’ll be facing next spring.
“It’s prepared me a lot in terms of learning to stay calm, cool and collected,” Gustin said. “But baseball is baseball no matter what. (In college) the games move faster and the kids are better.”
Come April, the focus is on making a playoff run. The past two seasons, the Tanners have lost one-run games in the first round, ending their postseason early.
“We want to make it out of the first round of playoffs,” Gustin said. “But mostly I’m looking to play good games, play clean, fundamental baseball.”