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Jason Schmidt wrapping up baseball career

Jason Schmidt's college baseball career at Mount Marty is nearing an end. Last week, the Mitchell native and senior shortstop/pitcher for the Lancers was two losses away from wrapping up four stellar seasons in blue and gold. The double-eliminati...

Jason Schmidt
(James Cimburek/Yankton Press & Dakotan) Mitchell native Jason Schmidt starts to run after hitting a ball at a game earlier this season.

Jason Schmidt's college baseball career at Mount Marty is nearing an end.

Last week, the Mitchell native and senior shortstop/pitcher for the Lancers was two losses away from wrapping up four stellar seasons in blue and gold.

The double-elimination Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason tournament started last week, and the Lancers were anything but the favorite, coming in as the seventh seed with a 10-10 league record.

A winning streak presented extra baseball for Schmidt, when the Lancers won five straight tournament games to claim the postseason championship and earn a berth in the NAIA regional tournament for the second time in three years.

"We really didn't see it coming, to be honest," said Schmidt, one of the best players in Mount Marty baseball history. "I don't think a whole lot of people saw the seventh seed coming out of nowhere and running the table."

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Schmidt -- who was named to the GPAC first-team list for the third straight year Wednesday -- has already made a huge mark at Mount Marty, which is 26-26 overall and plays York College at 11 a.m. today in the first round of regions in Oklahoma City. He holds school hitting records for career runs (179), at-bats (564), games played (197), hits (217), doubles (50) and walks (146). On the mound, he holds career records for saves (26) and ERA (2.40). He's also tied for second in career triples with nine, and third in RBIs with 176.

"He's an amazing baseball player," Mount Marty coach Andy Bernatow said. "He's had one heck of a phenomenal career, and over the past four years I've had the best seat in the house to watch it.

"Not only do I feel that he's one of the greatest hitters to come through Mount Marty, I feel he's one of the greatest hitters in GPAC history."

At the beginning of the season, it wasn't a certainty the Lancers would make the conference postseason tournament. They started the year 3-8 in league play and were near the bottom of the 11-team standings.

Schmidt said the team's pitching staff was on track early in the year, but the hitting wasn't on par to help win games. After the halfway point of the conference season, the Lancers' bats woke up and helped the team win seven of their final nine games.

"Our pitching has been top-notch all year," said Schmidt, who finished the year with seven saves, third most in the GPAC. "We just haven't been able to put up any runs for them, and then our bats started clicking at the end of the season, and it rolled over into the tournament."

In the conference tournament, Schmidt went 9-for-18 at the plate with seven RBIs. Headed into the national tournament, the left-handed hitter is batting .351 with 47 RBIs and 21 extra-base hits, including eight home runs.

Statistically, his senior season hasn't matched up to his sophomore or junior years. As a sophomore, Schmidt and the Lancers won a program-record 39 games and claimed the conference regular-season championship. That year, they went to regions and were one win from qualifying for the NAIA World Series. Schmidt admits his sophomore season was fun, but says this year stands out as more memorable.

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In 2011, Schmidt was named the GPAC player of the year and was a first-team all-conference selection as a shortstop for the second straight year. He gained major interest by Major League Baseball scouts that season, and his name was entered in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft. His name was never called, and that was a major disappointment, he said.

"I got told by a pretty high person up in the food chain that, 'You need to get out of the fantasy of wondering if you're going to get drafted. It's when you're going to get drafted,' " Schmidt said. "I was really looking forward to the draft those three days and staying close to the phone and waiting for that call. It just didn't happen. That disappointed me. It built my hopes up quite a bit just to bring them down."

Bernatow said Schmidt has an excellent chance to showcase his talents one last time this week at regionals. Across the country, there are nine five-team regional tournaments that are double elimination. The winner of each region qualifies for the 10-team world series, which starts May 25 in Lewiston, Idaho.

The other teams in the same region as Mount Marty are Oklahoma City; Lubbock Christian (Texas); Sterling (Kan.); and York College (Neb.).

"One thing I've noticed over the years, when we get to tournament play, he turns it up to another level," Bernatow said.

Schmidt said scouts are putting his name in the draft again, but right now, he's enjoying the last games of his college career.

"It's a good way to go out as a senior," he said, "and it's the way everyone wants to end, being on top. If (getting drafted) happens, it's just a bonus. But if it doesn't, I've got other things in life that are important, too."

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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