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Editor's note: Each week, The Wake Weekly will honor a local high school senior athlete who put in years of work in a sport, but who may not finish their final season after COVID-19 caused spring sports to be postponed.
RALEIGH - This week's student-athlete of the week is Wakefield baseball player Jake Dacunto.
The senior shortstop, who also played third base and second base, has been playing America's favorite pastime since he was 4 years old. He was born in Connecticut and then his family moved to Raleigh when he was 2 years old.
Dacunto has grown up playing in Wake Forest's Parks and Recreation league, starting with T-Ball.
What helped Dacunto stay connected to the game was his competitive spirit with his older sister, Amanda. She is currently a softball player for Salem College and helped sparked a passion for baseball in Dacunto early on.
"Amanda helped me develop a love for the game," Dacunto said. "When I was younger, I also played basketball and football. She helped me realize how much I love baseball. We're very competitive. She always pushes me to do better. We always brag about how I can do one thing and she can do other things."
That sibling rivalry helped develop Dacunto into one of the best baseball players Wakefield has seen in a while. He is one of the bright spots on a Wakefield baseball team that finished fifth in the NAC 6 conference last year.
Last season, Dacunto had a monster year with a .419 batting average along with 26 hits, 17 runs and seven RBIs. The prolific athlete was on pace for another great season as he hit his first two home runs of his career earlier this season.
However, once the North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced the news of shutting down the spring season until May 18 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dacunto's hopes of extending his legacy was cut short.
"I heard the news during my last class of the day," Dacunto said. "We're all seniors in that class, so everyone was talking about it. We were sitting in the gym and I saw the news on my phone. It was devastating. Having everything cut like that was really hard to take."
Despite having his senior year trimmed down, Dacunto has put in plenty of top baseball for Wakefield. Throughout his career, the shortstop has racked up a total of 50 hits, 40 runs and 25 RBIs, including those two home runs he hit this spring.
During his time as a Wolverine, Dacunto has learned what it's like to be a leader. He has set an example through his play on the field and how he carries himself as a student-athlete off the field.
"I was lucky enough to be called up to play on varsity by freshman year," Dacunto said. "Ever since then, I've been mentally checking myself on how I can improve each year. My sophomore year, I learned from the seniors on our team and learned how to be a leader from them. I stepped up to the plate my junior year and showed everyone that you can't take anything lightly. We have a good group of guys. This year would have been a good year. I felt like a lot of the younger guys looked up to me on what to do and how to do it. It would have been fun playing with them."
Dacunto announced back in December that he will play for William Peace University when he graduates. He's thinking about studying marketing in college.
Until then, Dacunto is focused on helping the younger generation reach the next level by letting them know what it takes to elevate their game.
"I would like to tell everyone to work as hard as they can," Dacunto said. "Play every game like it's your last, because you never know what can happen. You never know when it's all going to end. I had a fun four years here at Wakefield."