Casey Schmitt, San Diego State’s starting third baseman and closer, is among the top two-way college baseball players in the nation.
As such, Schmitt’s workload in practice and games is closely monitored.
“We’re very careful with what we do,” SDSU head coach Mark Martinez said. “It’s frustrating for him because he wants to play the game.
“We won’t let him throw across the diamond in certain drills. He gets frustrated with that, but we have to be very careful.”
That explains why Schmitt was on a strict innings limit over the summer when he played for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League.
When Schmitt reached 21 innings on the mound, that was it.
But Cotuit manager Mike Roberts wanted to get one more inning out of Schmitt. And he did, with Martinez’s blessing.
It turned out to be the ninth inning of the Cape Cod League championship game, with Schmitt closing out the victory over Harwich. Schmitt, who homered twice in the game, earned playoffs MVP for his efforts.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from Eastlake High said the experience made him realize he could match up against the best players in the country — on the mound and at the plate.
The knowledge and confidence gained over the summer will no doubt benefit Schmitt during the 2020 season, which begins Friday. The Aztecs open on the road at the Coastal Carolina Tournament, where they will play Virginia Tech and UNC Greensboro this weekend in addition to the tournament hosts.
Schmitt had meniscus surgery on his right knee last month, so his availability this weekend will be day-to-day. He should be at full strength soon, however.
His dual role makes Schmitt an essential piece for the Aztecs.
While most players have to decide to either hit or pitch by the time they reach this level, Schmitt simply views it as the continuation of how it has always been.
“I’ve probably done it since I was 6-8 years old, whenever you start throwing to each other,” Schmitt said. “I just try to help in any way, whether that’s pitching, hitting or defense or whatever it is.”
Schmitt is the SDSU’s top returning run producer after batting .315 with five home runs and 36 RBIs last season. He has been SDSU’s starting third baseman from virtually the moment he stepped on campus two years ago.
What grabbed people’s attention, however, was when Schmitt moved into the closer’s role midway through the 2018 season. He allowed one earned run over 32 innings for a 0.28 ERA while collecting nine saves.
Schmitt stumbled out of the gate last season — “I tried to be a little too perfect on the mound,” he said — but still finished with a 3.77 ERA, eight saves and 44 strikeouts in 43 innings.
Late in the season, the Aztecs even used Schmitt in a starting role at times when games grew greater in significance. He will be managed similarly this year.
“He’s an elite pitcher,” Martinez said. “He would pitch (as a starter) on Friday nights in a lot of programs.
“At the same time, he’s our No. 3 hitter. He’s one of our best players. For us, it fits better for us to have him finish games. It allows us to use him more efficiently throughout the season.”
Schmitt has received a number of preseason accolades, including being named this week to the Golden Spikes Award watch list.
The Golden Spikes is given annually to the nation’s top amateur player. Schmitt is the fourth SDSU player since 2008 on the preseason list, joining pitchers Stephen Strasburg (the 2009 Golden Spikes winner), Addison Reed and Michael Cederoth.
As a junior, Schmitt is eligible for the 2020 MLB Draft. He will be one of the area’s most closely watched prospects this season, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about it.
“I got used to it in summer ball because there were scouts out there everyday,” said Schmitt, who was named on four preseason All-America teams. “I just don’t really think about it and go out there and do my thing.”