SPORTS

Schmitt ‘Doing it His Own Way’ For the Aztecs

May 1, 2018

The freshman is quickly becoming a key to SDSU’s present and future

By Zach Engberg

With one out in the top of the ninth inning, up 6-3 with a Fullerton runner in scoring position, freshman Casey Schmitt made the short jog from third to the pitching mound.
Just one inning before, Schmitt had singled in a run, and was now being called on to close the game for San Diego State (24-13, 8-6 MW).

But, always a cool customer, Schmitt slung his silky splitter, setting down the final two Titan batters, notching his second save of the season.

“He’s an exceptional baseball player,” head coach Mark Martinez said.

For his efforts in the series — two saves in three scoreless innings against the Titans — Schmitt was named the Mountain West Pitcher of the Week, the first freshman to earn that honor since April 2015.

Generally, freshmen don’t close games, don’t play two positions and aren’t relied on as heavily as the Aztecs rely on Schmitt.

“(But) He’s not a freshman anymore,” Martinez said. “He’s had to grow up.”

In his first season on the Mesa, the Chula Vista native is hitting .287 and is fourth on the team with 20 RBI in 101 at-bats, impressing everyone along the way.

“He’s a stud,” junior first baseman Jordan Verdon said. “He’s got a lot of confidence, a lot of flavor. He does it his own way.”

Martinez has begun to rely on Schmitt to shut down games, who has a 0.54 ERA — best among SDSUs relief pitchers — with four saves in 16.2 innings pitched.

“He gives us an added dimension,” Martinez said. “We’re going to continue to hand him the ball to close out games… he’s beginning to show that he can handle it.”

The dual role is nothing new for Schmitt, who was closing out games while hitting in the heart of the lineup for Eastlake High School.

“I keep it two separate things,” Schmitt said. “I don’t really bring ‘em together.”
For the record, Schmitt said he is better at third than on the mound, although the numbers speak for themselves.

But his path to SDSU began years before he began dominating hitters with his splitter and celebrating home runs with suave bat flips at Eastlake.

Growing up coming to games at Tony Gwynn Stadium and watch the legendary No. 19 in the dugout, Schmitt had his sights set on being an Aztec.

So, when the offer came from Gwynn and his team of recruiters his freshman season, Schmitt already knew his answer.

“I didn’t think twice,” Schmitt said.

It doesn’t hurt, he said, that his parents can come to all of his games.

“They come to the games, pretty much all of them,” he said. “They love watching.”

Schmitt, along with Verdon, senior infielder David Hensley and junior catcher Dean Nevarez, are part of a pool of 10 Aztecs — including six of the eight starters in the field — to hail from San Diego.

And it is that core group of players that are leading this team, which is looking for its fifth trip to the NCAA Regionals in six years, and its first spot in a Regional final since 1990, when the Aztecs were one win away from the College World Series.

“We have an extremely solid team,” Schmitt said. “I think we’re gonna go a long way.”
Past this year, Schmitt features as an important piece of the Aztecs future, and Verdon said that puts him at ease.

“(It’s nice) Knowing that you’re not leaving behind some Joe Schmoe to lead this team,” Verdon said. “We’re leaving the team with a stud.”

“He’s gonna be a really special player,” Martinez said.

Schmitt and the rest of the Aztecs will be in action this weekend when they face conference rival Fresno State at Tony Gwynn Stadium starting Friday at 6 p.m.

The Bulldogs (22-14, 8-10 MW) are fourth in the conference, one spot behind the Aztecs.

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