Sebring ace baffles Jesuit, ends state streak

Published May 10, 2007

TAMPA - With a victory against Sebring, Jesuit could have advanced to the state final four for the fifth-straight year.

Sebring starting pitcher Chaz Abeln, however, had other ideas.

Abeln, who was staked to an early 2-0 lead before he took the mound, kept Jesuit guessing all night, largely with a knee-buckling curveball, striking out 12 to lead Sebring to a 4-2 victory and its first spot in the state semifinals since 1966.

"We've seen guys that can throw the ball like that, we just didn't make adjustments, " Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. "You're going to get beat against a quality team if you don't make adjustments. ...His curveball was one of the best we've seen - it was a legit curveball. We just waited a little too long to jump on the fastball."

After Abeln reached base with a two-out single in the first inning, Sebring (26-4) took a 2-0 lead on Charley Peck's deep, two-run home run to rightfield that crushed the top of the outfield light pole about 40 feet in the air beyond the fence. Peck singled home Abeln in the third after Abeln reached with a double to put the Blue Streaks up 3-0.

Abeln (10-1) struck out five of the first seven Jesuit batters before catcher Matt Fest unloaded a 1-2 breaking ball over the fence in rightfield for the Tigers' first hit and run. Jesuit (24-6) cut the lead to one in the fourth inning on Greg Dupell's RBI groundout that scored Jonathan Koscso.

Sebring got a much-needed insurance run in the top of the sixth after Jesuit starter Kevin Quackenbush hit Tony Vazquez in the leg with a 0-2 pitch. Caleb McGee, running for Vazquez, later came around on Ryan Thorlton's single to leftfield.