By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Brett Abell has placed his hopes for a professional baseball career on hold.
Abell, who completed his senior season at Missouri Southern last month, said he has decided to take a break from baseball this summer instead of pitching for the Joplin Outlaws.
“I’m going to take this summer off, get back in the weight room this fall, then go to a tryout or two and see what happens,” said Abell, whose 116 strikeouts last season ranked fourth in NCAA Division II and broke the Missouri Southern record.
Abell’s only appearance as an Outlaw was as the starting pitcher June 2 against the Sedalia Bombers in the second game of the season. In four innings, he allowed one run on four hits, walked four and struck out four. He was the winning pitcher in a 7-1 decision.
He said he consulted with medical staff and pitching coach Jason Immekus of the Outlaws and the Lions before he made the decision.
“I always want to talk to ‘Kus’ first,” said Abell, who was advised by medical staff that he needed rest. “They just basically told me to take some time off. I just needed to give my body time to heal.”
Abell, who missed nearly all of last season after he underwent a procedure known as Tommy John surgery on his left arm, was instrumental in the Lions’ MIAA Postseason Tournament championship and their appearance in the Central Region tournament.
He was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 17 games, including 15 starts. He pitched six complete games and allowed 91 hits and 42 walks in 1061⁄3 innings.
After the Lions finished third in the MIAA regular season and qualified for the postseason tournament, Abell started three games and was 1-1 with an ERA of 0.32. He allowed 17 hits in 281⁄3 innings, walked six and struck out 24:
• May 4 vs. Northeastern State: In a first-round game, Abell pitches 81⁄3 innings against the RiverHawks, who led NCAA Division II with 69 home runs. He allows one earned run, six hits and one walk. He strikes out six.
Northeastern State wins 4-2, but the Lions win the best-of-three series two games to one and advance to the four-team championship tournament at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
• May 9 vs. Pittsburg State: Abell pitches a six-hit shutout against the Gorillas as the Lions win 9-0. He allows three walks and strikes out seven. PSU left-hander Matt Stalcup takes the loss.
The Lions win the tournament two days later when a ninth-inning, three-run home run by Sam Ryan clinches a 6-3 victory against Missouri Western.
• May 16 vs. Minnesota State: In an epic 146-pitch effort, Abell pitches 11 shutout innings. He allows five hits, two walks and strikes out 11, including striking out the side in the 11th inning after a Minnesota State runner reaches third base with none out.
Minnesota State scores a run on a squeeze bunt with two out in the 14th inning and wins 1-0. The Mavericks eventually advance to the national championship game, losing to Tampa 8-2.
“It was one of the most dominating performances I’ve been a part of as a pitching coach,” Immekus said. “When you pitch 11 shutout innings against the national runner-up, you know you’re running right that day.
“He threw some pitches at Mankato that were 88 (mph) easily,” he said. “The one thing Brett really has going in his favor is that with the command of his other two pitches, when he regains the fastball it’s just going to make him that much better.”
Immekus said Abell’s decision to take the summer off was reached after they considered the circumstances.
“Typically, a kid that has Tommy John surgery, it’s 18 months before they’re up to speed,” he said. “Because it was his senior year, he was forced into action sooner than normal.
“It’s going to be beneficial for him to rest and get his arm back in shape. That’s tough advice for Brett to hear because he’s such a competitor, but in the long run it’s going to be the most beneficial for him in his career.”
In the meantime, Abell said he plans to stay in the Joplin area and pursue academic opportunities through MSSU in addition to his work for the city of Joplin.
“I’ll be out at Becker. I’ll be around,” he said. “I’ll be out at the sports complex. I have no plans to leave any time soon.”