GALVESTON — Ball High left-handed pitcher Jake Simon was able to catch the attention of one of the nation’s premier college baseball programs, and now he looks to join its ranks in the 2015-16 season.

On Tuesday, Simon gave his verbal commitment to play for Rice University in Houston after his senior season at Ball High next school year. Simon said Rice was a school on top of his list for some time and he is happy to have the opportunity to play college baseball there.

“I was just excited and relieved all at the same time,” Simon said about making his verbal commitment.

For Simon, Rice presented the total package that a college could offer him as a student-athlete.

Since 1997, Rice has been a regular fixture on the national baseball scene. The Owls were NCAA champions in 2003, have made seven College World Series appearances and have 11 regional titles in the last 17 years.

The Owls have appeared in the tournament every year and have won their conference championship all but one year since 1997.

Rice is also No. 18 in the nation for overall academics in the most recent U.S. News and World Report national college rankings.

“They have great academics, and they have a rich tradition of baseball there,” Simon said. “It just felt like a good fit for me to go to.”

Simon, who is also the Ball High football team’s starting quarterback, said the verbal commitment should serve as just one more piece of extra motivation as he closes out his high school athletic career.

“No doubt, but there’s always motivation. I just have to keep working hard,” Simon said.

This past year as a junior, Simon received postseason honors in baseball with selections to the All-County first team and 24-4A All-District first team as an outfielder. Simon was also named Newcomer of the Year following the 24-4A football season.

Contact Sports Editor James LaCombe at 409-683-5242 or james.lacombe@dailynews.com.

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