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EKU’s Abbott a ‘Jacob’ of all trades on the baseball diamond; has played eight different positions


When Jacob Abbott took the mound on a cool February night in Baton Rouge, the Eastern Kentucky University baseball team led 11th-ranked LSU, 2-0, in the bottom of the ninth.

There were two outs. And two runners on. Cade Doughty, LSU’s highly touted leadoff hitter, stepped to the plate. He represented the winning run for the Tigers. The atmosphere was tense.

Abbott fell behind early – two balls, one strike. He caught Doughty looking on the outside corner to even the count. Then he turned to his punch-out pitch – the curveball.

Abbott snapped a sweeping hook across the plate. Doughty swung and missed.

The Colonels had pulled off the upset. And Abbott had earned the save. It was a gratifying moment for an in-state senior who came to EKU as a third baseman, and then played eight different positions during his career just to stay on the field.

EKU’s Jacob Abbott has played eight different positions during his career, including a role as a relief pitcher. He even picked up a save against No. 11 LSU this season. (EKU photo)

The term “Renaissance Man” is commonly used to describe a person who is proficient in a variety of fields. In baseball, these people are simply called “utility players.”

Jacob Abbott is a classic utility player – a gritty, throwback, team-first competitor who will take on any role to help the Colonels win.

Following a stand-out career at nearby Lafayette High School in Lexington, Abbott came to EKU as a rocket-armed recruit who could play either shortstop or third base. As his freshman season progressed, he also dabbled at second base. In practices and scrimmages, Abbott played both corner outfield spots.

“This was more a way of me trying to figure out how I could help the team,” he said. “I have never been one that has liked to sit back and watch the action. I like to be a part of the game, as I think any athlete does.”

When Abbott returned to campus as a sophomore, the coaching staff approached him about a move behind the plate. That fall, he played catcher, third base, shortstop and second base. He also began to toss some bullpen sessions.

Whatever was required to be a good teammate, Abbott obliged.

“It’s been tough because I’ve never really been able to solely focus on one position,” Abbott said. “But in the end, it’s all worth it, because I love being out there on the field and competing. Especially around this group of guys.”

“There really isn’t much I wouldn’t do for my teammates,” he added. “I have always tried to be the guy that will help out. Whether it be stepping in and throwing someone BP so they can get some extra cuts in, or strapping the gear back on to catch a bullpen … I just like being someone that they know has their back. I’ll do anything to help out.”

As his sophomore season opened, Abbott assumed his traditional third base/shortstop role. However, in early April, EKU’s star first baseman, Tyler Romanik, went down with an injury — and Abbott stepped up.

He started at first base for the Colonels’ pivotal conference series against Austin Peay.

Add another position to the list.

Following a standout career at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Abbott came to EKU as a rocket-armed recruit who could play shortstop or third base. (EKU photo)

At the midway point of his college career, Abbott seemed to accept that he may never become an elite Division I hitter. But he still possessed a very valuable skill: versatility. And he was still determined to contribute any way he could.

“My dad made sure that from a young age I was able to play all over the field,” Abbott said. “It definitely added value to know all the positions, as it meant I could always be put on the field wherever there was an open spot.”

Going into his junior year, Abbott saw an open spot in the Colonels’ bullpen. This time, he approached the coaching staff about a move.

“I felt like I had enough arm strength and enough feel for the game to be able to pitch,” Abbott said. “It was another position I had always played growing up. I stopped my senior year of high school because I thought I was going to trend towards being a much better hitter than I ended up being.”

The transition to the mound was gradual. Abbott was still expected to practice at other positions while also trying to become a mid-career Division I pitcher.

“I can remember having to catch four or five bullpens and then getting all the gear off and getting loose to throw my own bullpen after.”

Slowly, though, he carved out a consistent role as a reliever. As a junior, Abbott went 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA. He struck out 36 batters in 25 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .245 against him.

In the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, Abbott tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win over rival and No. 3 seed Morehead State.

“My junior year, I felt like I played a huge part towards the end of the year coming out in relief on the mound.”

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Abbott carried that confidence into his senior year. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn the save in EKU’s season opener at Presbyterian. Then came the Colonels’ stunning win over LSU. Abbott described it as “an amazing feeling.”

“It was definitely one of the top-five games I have ever been a part of,” he said.

Abbott and the Colonels continued to roll. They were 12-2 when the season was abruptly canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

A silver lining in the heartbreak was the NCAA’s ruling that spring student-athletes could return for another year of eligibility in 2021. Abbott plans to be back. In the meantime, he is shifting his focus to a remarkable academic pursuit.

If you thought eight different positions on a baseball field was impressive, try three different majors.

Abbott has maintained a flawless 4.0 GPA while being a triple major in accounting, finance and risk management/insurance. He plans to graduate next spring and then take the Certified Public Accountant exams.

But…

“That’s as far as I have gotten with my post-college plans,” Abbott said. “For now, I am just excited that I am going to be able to have one more year of going out, competing with my teammates and chasing after a ring.”

From Eastern Kentucky University


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