Jamie Schmidt provided a great lesson Saturday in how athletes can be rewarded by simply keeping their spirits up when faced with adversity.
Playing in an elimination game for the Grants Pass Nuggets at the American Legion AAA state tournament, the left fielder from Hidden Valley High made a mess of his first fly ball opportunity against the DeMarini Dirtbags of Salem.
RECAP: Nolan Bastendorff earns a complete-game victory with the help of fellow Crater High product Anthony Martin (2-for-3, two runs) and sparkplug Jamie Schmidt (2-for-4, two runs, two RBIs).
UP NEXT: Today, noon, Grants Pass Nuggets vs. Canyon Crushers at Harry & David Field. If Nuggets prevail, a winner-take-all second game will be at 3:30 p.m., or 30 minutes after Game 1 if that extends beyond 3 o'clock.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning and all eyes on Schmidt, he camped under a routine floater from Jarett Peterson, only to have the ball fall from his glove as he looked to secure it at Harry & David Field.
Nuggets starting pitcher Nolan Bastendorff induced a comebacker to make the error a moot point, but the embarrassment and frustration alone might have been enough to send another player on a downward spiral.
But not Schmidt.
In all, the 5-foot-7, 165-pounder responded in the best way possible by going 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs and no further fielding miscues to help Grants Pass stave off elimination with a 7-3 triumph.
"Jamie had a heckuva time with that fly ball he dropped, and then he just had a heckuva day after that," said Nuggets head coach Mike Reese. "But that's part of being an athlete, your day's not done. You kinda forget about the one he dropped now because he went on to have a huge day for us. It seemed like everything he did after that was clutch. I loved the way he bounced back from that."
Schmidt's one-out double in the sixth inning eventually led to him scoring the tying run. His two-out single in the seventh inning gave the Nuggets their first lead, and his grounder to second base brought home the go-ahead run in the ninth inning after the Dirtbags had rallied to tie the contest at 3-all.
"I kinda came out ice cold but I tried to keep my head up," said Schmidt, the No. 9 hitter whose sixth-inning effort snapped an 0-for-4 drought at the state tourney. "When I got that first hit, things just started to turn around. My team stayed behind me and I was able to make a little bit of a comeback."
Comebacks were kind of the theme of the day for the Nuggets (37-11), who improved to 3-1 at the tourney in their only game not decided by one run. GP won its opener against Corvallis by scoring the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, then lost Game 2 against the Canyon Crushers by allowing a run in the bottom of the 12th inning. On Friday, the Nuggets scored on a 10th-inning walk-off single by Evan Erskine to edge the Portland Eastside Barbers.
"It was fun to do something different today and not go into extra innings," Reese said with a laugh.
In order to claim the first state title in program history, Grants Pass will have to do what no one else has done and that's beat the Salem-area Canyon Crushers — and then do it again.
As the only unbeaten team at the tourney, the Crushers are afforded a second chance at the title should they falter in today's opener at noon. If necessary, a second winner-take-all game will be played at 3:30 p.m., or 30 minutes after the first game if it extends beyond 3 o'clock.
"It's a great opportunity for our guys," said Reese. "We're in a position to have a chance to win this whole thing, and after dropping one (Thursday) we can't ask for more."
"I like our chances because I like our ballclub," he added. "They've won a lot of ballgames for me in the last few years, and a lot of these guys are pretty veteran guys."
Helping make it possible to play another day was a standout pitching effort from Bastendorff, who erased a rough seven-inning stint against Corvallis with a complete-game outing on Saturday. The 6-5 Crater High product allowed nine hits but only three runs with one walk and two strikeouts on 103 pitches.
"Coming back from the other day when I was struggling, that was huge," said Bastendorff, who improved to 10-0 this summer.
"Today I was hitting my spots really well and all my pitches were working great," added the right-hander, who retired 13 straight batters at one point. "A couple times I left the ball up and they hit it, but for the most part I got groundball outs and my defense worked hard for me all day long."
Peterson, Bastendorff's right-handed counterpart, was effective in his own right despite finishing with 11 hits allowed against five strikeouts and no walks. Peterson cast aside 15 Nuggets in a span of 16 plate appearances after a leadoff single by Marco Garmendia — the lone exception coming when Anthony Martin was hit by a pitch in the second inning before being erased on a double play.
That next batter who snapped the drought proved to be Schmidt, who sliced a double down the left field line in the sixth. He advanced on another single by Garmendia, who finished 3-for-4, and then scored the tying run on an RBI single by Matt Cole that broke his own 3-for-15 slump at state.
The Nuggets built a 3-1 cushion in the top of the seventh inning after Martin and Sebastian Reynolds ripped one-out singles to get things rolling. Schmidt followed with a two-out RBI single through the right side of the infield, and then Reynolds raced home on Peterson's only wild pitch of the game.
The Dirtbags ran themselves out of a scoring opportunity in the sixth when Peterson was caught too far off third base after rounding the bag following a single to left field by Connor Mattison. The result was a rare inning-ending assist from Schmidt to third baseman Tyler Bennett and, finally, shortstop Cole on a head's up play.
In the seventh, however, the Dirtbags scored on a squeeze bunt by Andy Armstrong that plated Jacob Riddell to make it 3-2. They evened the score at 3-all in the eighth when Peterson got a reprieve following a missed foul pop-up and doubled on the next pitch. He later scored on a two-out double by Mattison.
Instead of hanging their heads, the Nuggets roared right back, with Martin setting the tone with a sharp leadoff single to left field.
"I was just looking to get a pitch to drive and work the count," he said. "I wasn't trying to do too much with it. Sometimes guys go up there and think they have to hit a home run or drive one into the gap and I was just thinking just a nice simple swing to get on base and then the next guy would move me over. I knew we had a good enough team to score me from second."
Sure enough, Reynolds executed a sacrifice bunt and a third straight Crater standout moved him to third on a single by Erskine. With runners on the corners, Schmidt tried to lay down a bunt of his own but it ricocheted to the backstop. On the next pitch, Schmidt sent a roller to second baseman Riddell, who did enough of a double-step before his throw home to create space for Martin to slide in safely.
"I was able to put one up the middle and it was enough for him to score so it worked out," said Schmidt. "I thought it was going to be a close double play with the runner still on third, but (Martin) went and he made that play for us."
From his perspective, Martin said there was no doubt what he needed to do.
"I looked and I saw that they were back," he said of the Dirtbag infielders. "Jamie hit it hard but soft enough to where I figured that I had enough time to beat the throw, which is what happened."
That seemed to open the floodgates for Grants Pass, with Garmendia adding an RBI single and Cole delivering a two-run single to build enough of a cushion for Reese to stay with Bastendorff to finish things off. He got a groundout and allowed a single before the Nuggets finally closed out the win with a double play turned by Cole, Garmendia and Jake Herklotz.
"On three days rest it was really gutsy," Reese said of Bastendorff's outing. "We were going to make a move if we didn't score any runs (in the ninth) and when we did, he said he wanted the ball. I said it's huge if you can finish this thing and we can save everybody for tomorrow. That was a big move for us that he did that, and I can't say enough about him. The guy's a gamer."
Grants Pass Nuggets 000 001 204 — 7 11 1
DeMarini Dirtbags 010 000 110 — 3 9 2
Bastendorff and Erskine; Peterson and Moskal. W — Bastendorff (10-0). L — Peterson. 2B — GP: Schmidt; D: Peterson, Mattison.
Wyatt, whose second HR of the tourney put his squad ahead 3-0 in the first inning, finished with five RBIs and teammate Justin Gardner was 2-for-5.
Bryce Tilton went 2-for-4 and Cody Farnes 2-for-5 for the Northwest Star East County Knights, who were eliminated.
Canyon Crushers 310 110 100 — 7 8 4
Northwest Star 101 011 100 — 5 6 3
Gilham, Fessler (6) and Gates; Jones, Turin (7), Thometz (9) and Fritsch. W — Gilham. L — Jones. 2B — C: Emerson, Wyatt; NW: Farnes. HR — C: Wyatt.