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CEDAR RAPIDS — Thomas Schaedel joined Coe’s baseball program as a middle infielder.
Pitching was so unlikely that his high school coach wagered that Schaedel wouldn’t see time on the mound in college. When the Kohawk senior’s season ends, he may want to return to Chicago and collect from his former Notre Dame prep coach.
Schaedel has made the transition from position player to pitcher over the last couple years and has become an ace for Coe this year. Schaedel entered Friday’s series against Simpson at Indianola with a 5-0 record and a 1.66 earned-run average.
“My varsity coach told me he’d give me a hundred dollars if I saw a varsity inning on the mound in college,” Schaedel said with a laugh. “I didn’t pitch much and coming in here I don’t think (Coe) Coach (Steve) Cook saw me much on the mound either.
“I didn’t see myself on the mound. I wanted to win a spot at second base and I played quite a bit my freshman year. Pitching wasn’t really an option.”
Plans changed Schaedel’s sophomore season. He dropped on the depth charge when he struggled at the plate. Schaedel liked pitching and when he was throwing it by teammates in practice he decided to make the switch.
“I just wanted to help the team out in any way I could,” Schaedel said. “I thought maybe being in the bullpen, helping out the starting pitchers. It just took off from there.”
Cook recognized Schaedel’s lively arm when he played shortstop in junior varsity games. Schaedel visited Cook’s office one day and pitched him the idea of the change. The decision was made and they eased him into the new role.
“At first, he was a dual guy, meaning he still swung the bat and played defense but also pitched his sophomore year,” Cook said. “As time went on we identified that his value for us was going to be on the mound.
“He basically came into my office and said coach I want to go do this. I’m all in. He put the bat away for this pitching thing. It has really paid off for us.”
Cook said the situation could have gone two ways. He said Schaedel could have done it after giving up on being a position player or he could have just identified the opportunity to contribute. Cook said it was the latter and the choice was easy.
“I don’t think he was totally on board with it right away,” Schaedel said. “He was still hoping I’d stay in the infield a little bit. I thought it was the best move for me and the best way I could help the team.”
Long toss and strengthening his arm to play shortstop actually helped him when it came to pitching. Schaedel has been able to throw hard, hitting 86 miles per hour earlier this season. His fastball is his go-to pitch, changing his mechanics this season to add some movement.
Schaedel has developed into more of a pitcher than a thrower.
“I think I can throw my fastball by any hitter,” Schaedel said. “I have the most confidence in my fastball. If I throw a slider right at their hip, they’re either going to flinch or swing right out of the zone for it.
“Last year, I was an infielder who threw the ball on the mound. This year, I’m more of a pitcher with pitching sense and smarts.”
One of the benefits of being a former infielder is Schaedel knows the batter’s mentality. He knows what they are expecting in each situation and knows what they don’t want to see as well.
“I definitely think having a hitting background helps me out,” Schaedel said. “As a hitter, I know what I didn’t like to see and I know what gave me trouble, so it helps on the mound knowing what makes them uncomfortable. It helps get after them when I’m out there.”
Schaedel has struck out 35 and allowed 40 hits in 43 1/3 innings, owning almost a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Cook said Schaedel attacks hitters and he is hard to beat when his secondary pitches complement his fastball.
“He’s grown into being a leader for us on the mound,” Cook said. “Obviously, that’s turned into having an unbelievable season so far this year.”
Coe (16-11, 8-7) is tied for fifth in the Iowa Conference standings. Schaedel will need to continue his success for the Kohawks to have theirs. He is aware a lot of work remains.
“I have to keep working out,” Schaedel said. “I have to keep polishing my pitches.
“It’s good to have the stats I have and still have a lot I need to improve on.”
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