No. 2 hitter Abel to reach base often for GV

Courtesy / GV Sports Info
Junior Baseball player Jesse Abel

Courtesy / GV Sports Info Junior Baseball player Jesse Abel

Lucas Rains

Baseball is more than just long-balls and strikeouts. Every team needs a guy who is able to do the little things: earn walks, work the count, and move base runners. Junior designated hitter Jesse Abel is just that for the Grand Valley State University baseball team.

Abel, a 22-year-old native of Bethalto, Ill., is simply focused on what he can do for the No. 12 GVSU squad.

“I don’t really set goals for myself,” he said. “I’d rather have the team do well. I want to win a National Championship. I don’t really want to set a number on batting average or doubles or anything. I just want to help the team out anyway I can.”

In 14 starts so far this season, Abel is batting a whopping .479 with two doubles, one home run and nine RBIs. He’s also slugging .583 while only striking out a total of six times in 48 at-bats.

Abel has been primarily hitting in the No. 2 spot in 2014 because of his knack to get on base.

“Hitting my pitch instead of a pitcher’s pitch is my mindset,” he said. “If it’s early in the count on the outside corner, I’m not really going to swing at that pitch. I’m just looking for a pitch I can handle.”

GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion praised Abel for his ability to do the little things.

“He’s become a very productive hitter,” Detillion said. “He goes deep in the count, he draws walks, and he moves base runners. As a head coach, it’s easy for me to put him at the top of the lineup.”

In his first year at GVSU last season, Abel batted .327 with a team-high .473 on-base percentage. His postseason play was even more impressive, especially in the NCAA Division II College World Series.

He hit .357 with two runs, two RBIs and a triple to earn a spot on the College World Series All-Tournament Team.

GVSU assistant coach Del Young credits Abel’s work ethic and mindset at the dish for most of his successes.

“He doesn’t really take an at-bat off,” Young said. “He finds a way to do something quality for the team each and every time up. It’s not just about getting a hit or worrying about his batting average, it’s just trying to be productive with his at-bats, and right now, it’s paying off.

Before GVSU, Abel played at Lincoln Trail Junior College, where he struck out just six times in 141 plate appearances in 2011. In 2012, he received a medical redshirt for a torn labrum. Fortunately, he signed at GVSU before the injury happened. He was first told the recovery would take around seven months, but he was able to get back in just three.

“It did take some time (to get back),” Abel said. “It never affected my swing, so I knew I would be good on that front. It wasn’t really too much to overcome.”

The quick recovery allowed Abel to come back and make a big impact on the second half of last season for the Lakers.

“He just started working hard every day in practice,” Detillion said. “That led to us putting him in the lineup, and then he went on a roll. He was outstanding last year once he got his chance and took full advantage of it.”

Abel and the Lakers will look to improve their 9-5 record tonight in a nine-inning matchup at Hillsdale College.