If you had asked Shippensburg University infielder Jackson LoBianco to point out Shippensburg on a map prior to his search of playing baseball at the collegiate level, he would not have had the faintest of clues.
Why would he? LoBianco, an Irvine, California, native did not even ponder the idea of playing collegiate ball on the East Coast. Let alone in a small town of roughly 5,000 people.
Sure, it was not something he would turn down if the right opportunity came along. He has always been one to accept change. But now, in the most astonishing of circumstances, LoBianco finds himself anchoring the shortstop position for the Raiders’ baseball program.
In a time when the recruiting landscape continues to change, especially with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic last March, recruiting coordinators are not having to travel to see athletes in person as often. While that portion of the process is still important, in a case like LoBianco’s, venturing to the other side of the country was not exactly an option.
However, through the online scouting organization, Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) — where future collegiate athletes can upload game film — LoBianco connected with SU. Shippensburg baseball recruiting coordinator Sean Williamson was in search of filling the hole at shortstop from the 2020 class. Williamson said LoBianco checked all the boxes.
“Jackson had done a good job of having a good collection of videos on his NCSA page and YouTube, where I could get a good feel for the type of player he was,” Williamson said. “He had also gone to a few showcase events where certain metrics were taken (60-yard dash, arm velocity, exit velocity), so we were able to add that to our evaluation.”
“At the end of the day, from his videos and speaking with coaches out his way, we could see a really athletic kid with great footwork, a strong arm and a solid swing.”
In fall 2019, LoBianco took a flight out to visit SU and shortly thereafter, picked up the phone and told the coaches, SU is where he wanted to call home for the next four years.
But LoBianco’s journey to SU became even more patented.
With his commitment to the Raiders, LoBianco carved his name in the Shippensburg history books before even stepping foot on the diamond — he is the first member of the SU baseball program from California. LoBianco’s entry into university history catalogs all the way back to 1874 when the baseball program was founded, with an official NCAA record eventually counting in 1927 when SU became a four-year degree-granting institution.
For LoBianco, while he said he is attending SU for the unique experience and the family atmosphere the university provides. When he thinks in the bigger picture, it is pretty crazy to know he stamped his family name in school history.
“I think when I really sit down and reflect on it, it’s absolutely surreal and crazy to think that that’s really true,” LoBianco said. “It’s not really a huge deal at the end of the day because we’re all just one team, one family. But upon reflection, it’s definitely a shock, and something I feel I’ve been lucky to do and that I’m very appreciative of.”
As imagined, LoBianco’s transition to SU comes with its adaptations. LoBianco said the East Coast culture and even things like the Pennsylvania wildlife are some things he is not used to seeing.
However, he is soaking in every aspect.
“The amount of animal life here; I know that sounds strange but open space farms, the small-town thing, is completely different,” LoBianco said with a laugh. “I’m used to the house on every block, things like that.
“I always say the culture on the East Coast is a lot more decompressing and that it was different, and I just felt like I would be able to grow as a person more, being away from home,” he added. “Having my own unique story and really branching out and trying something different — I had a feeling that it’d be a lot slower paced and calm, and I think I was right about that.”
Despite the more mellow pace, LoBianco has his sights set on some lofty goals in his freshman campaign: Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Freshman of the Year, and as a team goal, national champions. He credits himself as one to always shoot for the highest feats. It is why he puts in the constant work and dedication.
As of Saturday, LoBianco holds a .091 batting average and totaled three walks.
But in the end, LoBianco said the opportunity to play collegiate baseball is a blessing in itself. And being part of the Raider baseball crew, makes the entire experience that much sweeter. He knows as long as his teammates are at his side, he is in good shape.
“I think we go to the field every day for each other. To try and make something special happen,” LoBianco said. “To be remembered. And that really gives us that extra gear. When we’re down and we’re just grinding through it, we just look around and see each other and that’s what pushes us forward.”