Hunter Jump's back was hurting so much earlier this week, Central Arizona College coach Anthony Gilich took him out of the game, but Gilich could not keep him out of the lineup.
Despite dealing with back pain almost daily, Jump delivered a clutch three-run home run in the first inning Saturday night to spark Central Arizona's 13-8 victory over Iowa Western Community College in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series national championship game at Suplizio Field.
Jump received the Daily Sentinel's Preston Walker Most Valuable Player award. He was 1 for 3 in the title game and 12 for 22 (.545) with two home runs and nine RBI in the tournament.
"The thing a lot of people don't know is he's really hurting," Gilich said. "He's been hurting for about the last three weeks, even one game in the World Series we had to take him out around the sixth inning. He's not feeling 100 percent at all.
"He's a tough kid. We have had a conversation every day about his health for about the last three weeks or more."
Jump did not bring up his back issues and Gilich said he does not talk about it. Jump didn't let the pain change his approach at the plate, either.
"I kept the same approach and stuck to what I'm good at," Jump said. "I looked for my pitch and kept my confidence even in the times I struggled a bit with my at-bats.
"I worked my entire life on hitting. I grew up as a hitter. I try to make things as simple as I can. I try to keep my head. I don't want to overcomplicate things."
After playing in a wood-bat league, Jump did not struggle in the World Series hitting with aluminum bats. His two home runs during the JUCO World Series matched his season total
"I love metal bats," Jump said. "We've been swinging wood all year. The transfer to this made things way easier for me with the timing. Overall it felt great."
Hitting has always been Jump's strength. It's what led him to Arizona State University out of high school. His freshman year there, Jump hit over .370 in 100 at-bats for the Sun Devils in the 2018 season, but when he returned for his sophomore year, he was told he would not play.
"I immediately wanted to go to Central," Jump said. "I heard good things about this place. Everyone treats me great. I knew I wasn't going to play (at ASU), so I wanted to focus on a place I would play and Central Arizona took me right away."
The sophomore outfielder has signed with the University of California-Santa Barbara for next season.
"He has a bright future," Gilich said. "He has good hand-eye coordination and barrel awareness. He doesn't strike out a whole lot. He's a good hitter with two strikes — a good hitter."