Former star Rim High baseball player Jacob Pilkerton was killed Saturday when his car went out of control on Highway 18 in Waterman Canyon and collided with an oncoming semi truck. He was 22.
San Bernardino Police traffic investigator Sgt. Vicki Cervantes said the accident occurred at 8:35 a.m. about three-eighths of a mile below upper Waterman Canyon Road.
Pilkerton, who went on to star on the diamond for San Bernardino Valley College and Cal State San Bernardino, was upbound and alone in his black 2004 Toyota Scion, entering a right-hand curve in the number-one lane when he apparently lost control.
Pilkerton’s vehicle entered the number-two lane after negotiating the curve, Cervantes said, apparently causing Pilkerton to overcorrect. He steered back to the left and crossed the center line, and his car spun.
The passenger side of Pilkerton’s car collided with the driver’s side of a white truck with a flatbed trailer attached, driven by Jose I. Gomez, 37, of Mendota, Calif.
Neither Gomez nor his unidentified passenger was injured, Cervantes said, but the impact pushed the cab into a ditch along the road and ruptured one of the truck’s diesel fuel tanks.
Cervantes said preliminary investigation has determined speed was “likely a factor” in the accident.
Fuel from the tank leaked onto the highway, with most of it running into the ditch. Cervantes said Caltrans officials called in a hazardous materials company to remove the soil into which the fuel had settled.
The highway was closed shortly after the accident and remained closed for most of the day, she said.
In addition to camping, fishing and spending time at the beach, baseball was a passion in Pilkerton’s life. An April 30, 2009, story in the Mountain News, published during his senior year at Rim High, quoted Pilkerton as saying he began playing T-ball when he was 4 or 5 years old.
Though that season was discouraging for the Fighting Scots, Pilkerton’s performance shone. At the end of April the shortstop was batting .510, with five home runs and 25 runs batted in.
During his high school years Pilkerton was a two-year letterman and was the all-league shortstop, winning all-CIF honors.
Following graduation he enrolled at San Bernardino Valley College, where he played second base for two seasons, won all-Foothill Conference recognition and won the school’s Mike Todd Memorial Scholarship, given annually to a sophomore baseball player to help further his higher education.
As a junior at Cal State San Bernardino, majoring in business, Pilkerton hit .298 and led the team in on-base percentage, at .437. The Coyotes had a losing record last season, but in the team’s next-to-last game on May 3, Pilkerton drove in the winning run in a 9-8 victory over Cal State Stanislaus.
But there was more to Jake Pilkerton than baseball. Holly Peterson, a close family friend, said Wednesday that Pilkerton “would walk into a room and would light it up with a smile and laughter.”
He had celebrated his 22nd birthday with friends down the hill the day before the accident, she said, and was coming up the hill to go to work when the accident occurred.
He had worked at both the Lake Arrowhead Village Pizza Deli as a pizza chef, Peterson said, and at the McKenzie Water Ski School as an instructor. He had held the pizzeria job off and on since high school, she said. The pizzeria is owned by David Doyle, who was Pilkerton’s baseball coach at Rim High.
Sometimes, Peterson said, as a joke on friends who stopped in to order pizza, Jake would slip an anchovy into the crust of their pizza. “He would be back in the kitchen, laughing his head off,” she said, at their reaction to the surprise.
Peterson said Jake loved to go fly fishing at Lake Lundy in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with his grandfather, and hunted deer and birds in Idaho with his father, Mark.
He had a core group of friends he’d grown up with, Peterson said, and the Pilkerton family home “always had tons of kids in and out.”
He was also close with his family, she said. “He talked to his grandfather the day before he died, and told him he loved him,” she added.
Peterson said her daughter, Moriah Crevier, had been close with Jake since they were in the fifth grade. “It’s been devastating,” she said of his death.
In tribute to Pilkerton, Peterson said, a group of his friends went around the community collecting white sheets, which they took to the mountain at the mouth of Waterman Canyon, and arranged them to form the letters “JP” in his memory.