It was a rollercoaster spring for Portage on its way to a sectional championship.
Through it all, Eric Mesarch was a constant.
"Baseball's mostly a mental game," Mesarch said. "I've always been the kind of person who can strike out three times, then come up in a big situation and have the confidence to do it. I'm a guy who's persevered through situations like that. I can forget about my past at-bats or errors and keep a cool head."
After a hot start, Portage fell on hard times. During some shuffling, Mesarch was moved across the diamond from first to third base.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs, but he was the one guy who maintained a level of consistency," coach Tim Pirowski said. "He handled the transition great. He's played great defense and he's had a great year at the plate. He's not that far off (2012 North Al-Star) Gabe (Acevedo) as far as production."
The move to the hot corner wasn't a drastic one for Mesarch. He played third base much of his career prior to his junior season, when he worked his way into the lineup at second after starting out as a reserve. In the preseason, Pirowski told him his plans were to have him at first.
"I was a little surprised, but at that point, I was like, 'Just tell me where you want to put me and I'll get the job done,'" said Mesarch, who played on three teams last summer. "I could really play anywhere. I moved to third and we just rolled with it the rest of the way."
Through it all, the Indians followed their captain's direction, both in word and action. He is hitting .364 with 32 RBIs.
"Leading's not what it used to be," Pirowski said. "You yell at somebody now, they (get mad). When things aren't going well, Eric's good at getting it back on track. The kids respond to him. He cares. He works his tail off. He wants to do well and does all the right things. It's a lot easier to take, coming from somebody like that."
The role was one Mesarch accepted without reservation.
"We had a lot of first-year varsity guys and I knew I was going to have to step up," he said. "I'm not afraid to tell someone if they're doing something wrong. It's not to hurt them. It's to help. I want everybody on the team to succeed in every way possible and it's my job not only to keep myself cool, but my teammates, too."
It was a lot easier during Portage's 10-2 start than its 4-10 Duneland Athletic Conference finish, but the Indians regained their mojo at the right time.
"I knew if we could keep our composure and play the way Portage baseball is played, we could beat anybody," Mesarch said. "It's amazing what can happen. That's just the magic of this team. I'm happy we got through that (18-year) sectional drought. Obviously, we're not done yet, but winning that sectional title is something I'll remember forever."
When it's all done, Mesarch knows it could be the end of his competitive baseball. The academic all-stater ranks fourth in a class of 587 with a grade point average of 4.55 and will attend Valparaiso University. He's considering walking on with the Crusaders.
"I know I'm not going to get drafted," he said. "I made my college decision based on what was best for my academic part. It'll be a bittersweet moment, but I'm looking forward to a new experience and meeting new people."