Sammy Schmidt’s softball career was never about what the team could do for her but rather what could she do for the team.
That attitude especially took shape this season, her senior year, when Schmidt’s reputation at the plate and batting stat lines became so intimidating that she had to find other ways to affect the game.
Schmidt was walked 36 times — more than twice any of her other Hastings teammates and the most in Tribland — and most of the time intentionally.
Opposing teams typically only pitched to her when the threat was minimal or the game was already out of hand.
Mostly, they avoided the prospect of facing her as much as they could regardless of the score.
“It was very much a struggle,” Schmidt said. “Especially when your own coaches are coming up to you saying, ‘Hey, you probably aren’t going to get anything to hit today.’”
Schmidt, of course, was always a threat. By the numbers she is statistically the best hitter to ever walk through the doors at Hastings Senior High.
At the end of her senior season, which concluded with the Tigers’ first district final loss in eight years, she was the program’s leader in career hits (232), doubles (42), triples (17) and batting average (.531).
“She’s one of the top kids I’ve coached in a long time,” said HHS coach Ashley Speak. “She has all of the tools and I think she’ll go on to do great things, but more importantly just grew into a great leader for us this year, and I think that will probably carry her as far as her athletic ability.”
Schmidt, this year’s selection for Tribland Player of the Year, was relied on more for leadership this season than anything.
Following two sizable graduating classes that led by both voice and example, Schmidt was one of the few left who knew what it took to keep Tiger softball at its highest level.
“That’s why we had the success that we did have, especially with all the young talent on the team,” said Speak.
“Early on (in her career) she was the young pup and now she was the leader. She did a good job of getting kids to buy in to loving the outfield, being aggressive and working hard in practice.”
Schmidt arrived at Hastings High already more developed than most high school softball players. But that doesn’t mean she was a player without flaws.
Speak said one of her few weaknesses early on was her outfield play, particularly charging in on the ball and “selling out” on 50-50 balls.
“She had learned that over the last couple years, so she really worked hard to kind of convince kids that there will be a backup there, so just sell yourself out on every ball and let your teammates have your back,” Speak said.
Ironically, it was Schmidt relying on her teammates behind her in the batting lineup to make up for her inability to produce much. By no fault of her own, of course.
“Hopefully everybody has your back at the end of the day and makes the other team pay for what they did,” Schmidt said. “Whether that’s getting on base, scoring runs — it’s just those things that you always had to look forward to no matter how frustrating that was.”
Said Speak: “She did a good job with it. We gave her the green light in certain situations, but just knowing her role and who was behind her, what they had done, she just had a good mindset and approach and I think that helped us in several games.”
That said, Schmidt did still have a career year, hitting .600 with 14 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Something she even called “pretty insane.”
“It’s just the amount of hard work I’ve put in throughout,” Schmidt said. “It’s just practice, practice, practice that really paid off for me in the end.”
It’s going to help pay for college, that’s for sure. Schmidt had been committed to Nebraska-Omaha for about a year before she signed her letter of intent Nov. 9.
The Mavericks have been keen on her since her sophomore season.
“We were well aware of her,” said UNO coach Mike Heard. “The numbers kind of speak for themselves. You just don’t see those type of numbers out there on the high school circuit very often. And, really, the club team she plays on goes against D-I kids all summer, and I’ve seen her have just tremendous success on that level, too.”
Schmidt has always been ahead of the curve, beginning with the 10-and-under Hastings Crush when she was only 8 years old.
“I’ve worn a lot of colors,” Schmidt said with a laugh.
She’ll soon add UNO’s red and black to her wardrobe.
Perhaps, in the process of studying business as she plans to do, she might also gain a sponsorship deal through the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness regulations.
“Hopefully, I play well enough in order to get that,” she said.