Any game that Mick Abel pitches in, the decibel level in the park is sure to rise — no matter the stakes.
Never mind that Lake Oswego was without two of its star players or that Jesuit didn't have head coach Colin Griffin at the helm in the quarterfinals of the Oregon Independent Baseball Association state tournament on July 21.
Abel brings fire and noise whenever he takes the mound and therefore tends to launch the game's intensity to another echelon on both sides. Such was the case in the quarters when Lake Oswego, trailing 4-0 in the top of the fourth, took exception to Abel's "Let's GO!" verbal outpouring of emotion in the third and wielded the alleged affront into five straight runs to snatch a 5-4 lead.
The electricity permeating from dugout-to-dugout and bleacher-to-bleacher at Wilsonville High School resembled a real high school postseason game in the spring for half the contest or so— but it didn't last.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Jesuit sophomore slugger James Porter slammed a bases-clearing triple that reclaimed an 8-5 lead. From there, Abel steadied himself on the mound, making sure his pitches stayed sensible while still wearing his emotions on his sleeve. And the Crusaders kept up the offensive pace, piling on six more runs over the next two innings to win the quarterfinal contest 14-5. Abel, who was away playing on the club scene for most of June and July, threw a complete game.
"It was a battle from the start," Abel said. "A couple of those guys are on my club team and we're good buddies. I was out there to win, compete and be intense. I've always had a will to win and I just release it out there on the mound."
Jesuit, however, lost to eventual tournament champion Sunset on Saturday in the OIBA semis. The Crusaders finished the summer with a 22-6 record.
Off the field, Abel is a calm and cool character, but between the white lines, he's a rabid competitor who riles up his teammates and occasionally the other team with his visible animation, specifically after he gets the third out of the inning. After the OSU commit struck out the side in the third and roared "Let's GO!" in the direction of the Laker dugout, Lake Oswego openly mocked the rising sophomore's slogan after every errant pitch and each base hit in the fourth stanza, creating a raucous atmosphere inside the park that helped swing the game's momentum back toward the Three Rivers League contender. Lake Oswego junior Matthew Sebolsky laced a soaring triple to right and sophomore Thomas Dukart brought him home by slamming an infield single into the turf that shaved Jesuit's lead to 4-1.
A throwing error on Abel let Dukart score, 4-2. And Lake Oswego catcher Gabe Deville kept the train hurtling down the track with a RBI single to left to pull within 4-3.
"Throughout the year there might have been teams that were better than us, but we just fight harder," Deville said. "We're used to fighting back, putting up more runs and chipping away."
As Jesuit labored, Lake Oswego enlivened with energy, creating a spark and sense of urgency at Abel's expense. Matt Grim's RBI groundout evened the game at 4-4. And, with the Laker dugout at full throat, Deville daringly stole home with Abel locked in on his catcher to give Lake Oswego a 5-4 lead.
"It was almost like 'Friday Night Lights,' playing on the football field with that sort of intensity," Deville said.
"We had one mindset and that was to hunt (Abel's) fastball because he was either going to be on it or he was going to be wild," Sebolsky said.
It was the sort of spurt, again without stars Sam Haney and Jake Dukart, that gave fans a glimpse of what the Lakers could be in 2018.
Following two upset wins in the Class 6A playoffs and a 6A quarterfinal appearance versus Beaverton, Lake Oswego is thinking big. Only five seniors graduated from last season and with Sebolsky, Dawson Jaramillo, Deville, and Jackson Laurent expected to return alongside the said stars, there's good reason to believe Lake Oswego will be in the hunt for a state title.
"We want to win it all," Deville said. "We kind of got over that learning curve toward the end of the season and that won't be there next year. We're just gonna go out there and ball out."
"We know we have a target on our back after last postseason," Sebolsky added. "We just have to finish it. We had that playoff run with a young and we have that experience where we can battle everything."
Yet, though Lake Oswego was able to rattle the Crusaders' cage a bit, they couldn't blow the lid off the game completely. In fact, the Lakers didn't score another run off Abel the rest of the way while Jesuit went off at the dish. The taunting aimed at Abel subsided as the Crusaders put the game away with one pounding hit after another and the sophomore kept Lake Oswego off the board.
"I was pretty mad about that, but it just drove my competitiveness even further through the roof," Abel said. "I just put my blinders on, blocked everything out and went from there. I'm sure a lot of teams will mock me for what I do, but I just unleash my energy in all sorts of forms."
Jesuit loves Abel's ability to bring that edge to the field and certainly had their ace's back the rest of the contest. Porter, with the bags full facing a full count, sized up a fastball and flogged it between the Laker centerfielder and right fielder. The ball rolled to the deepest part of the park and with three plus athletes on the bags, all three scored standing up. With one swing, Jesuit jumped to an 8-5 lead. Josh Daul added an opposite field double in the fifth and another in the sixth. Dorsey Wilhoite ran out a RBI infield single and scored on a Will Spitznagel RBI infield single. Subsequently, Porter added a two-run double to extend Jesuit's lead to 14-5.
"Porter is an animal," Abel said. "He's unstoppable out there most of the time. We hammered the ball whenever we could, whenever we got the chance."
Ennis Ferguson had a two-run single in the second. The second baseman also turned a double play with Spitznagel.