Thanks to Joe Schmidt’s big day, the St. Francis Borgia Regional baseball Knights will be playing for the Class 4 baseball title.
Schmidt pitched a no-hitter Thursday against Helias, 5-0, at CarShield Field in O’Fallon. It was the 16th no-hitter in a state semifinal, championship or third-place game in MSHSAA history.
“It’s a great feeling to go out there and shut a team down,” Schmidt said. “That’s what we needed to get to the state championship. All of the pitches I needed to execute, I did. Everything was feeling good today.”
Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff said that is what Schmidt is capable of doing.
“He was impressive,” Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff said. “That’s the best game he’s pitched in a long time. He struggled a tad in the district championship game and the sectional game. Today he was back to being the Joe he had been most of the year. I couldn’t be any more proud of him. Louie Eckelkamp did an outstanding job behind the plate calling a great game. They’ve been friends for life and they work well together.”
Schmidt also bashed a two-run home run which highlighted a four-run second inning. The biggest hit of the game sailed over the center field fence to give the Knights insurance runs.
So what was the bigger thrill?
“Probably the no-hitter, but I think the home run was more of a statement that we can play and we’re here to play with anybody,” Schmidt said. “The no-hitter was just the icing on the cake, I think.”
Struckhoff said Schmidt’s blast was huge.
“Joe hit that ball hard and got it up in the jetstream,” Struckhoff said. “He’s got good power. He’ll have a good career after this. Hopefully, he continues his good career here for one more game. That was a bomb, about the same distance as Spencer Hunter’s home run in the quarterfinals.”
Borgia (22-7) played Westminster Christian (29-6) Friday afternoon for the title after the Weekend Missourian deadline. Westminster Christian defeated Savannah in the other semifinal, 10-0.
Both Helias and Savannah were finished after one game as MSHSAA had to delete the third-place game due to catching up for games rained out Wednesday.
Schmidt needed 86 pitches to set the Crusaders down. He allowed one walk and hit two batters. Borgia made one error in the field. Schmidt came through when needed, striking out six and improving to 5-2 on the season.
“That was pretty special,” Eckelkamp said. “Joe and I almost had joked about it on the bus. I’ve caught almost every game he’s thrown for the last eight years. It’s just grand to perform like that and for us to be able to do that on the biggest stage we’ve ever played together on is huge. That’s going to be something we remember for the rest of our lives.”
Heading into the game, the story was a rematch between Schmidt and Helias hurler Zach Davidson. The two had faced each other on the hill April 1 in Jefferson City. Davidson won that day, 2-0.
“We had a game plan that we were going to come out swinging the bat,” Struckhoff said. “We weren’t going to wait. We hit him the last time, but didn’t get any breaks. Joe pitched a gem against them last time, but he was even better this time. I couldn’t be more proud of him, but I’m so proud of this whole team.”
Schmidt said he knew Borgia was capable of doing better than the first meeting.
“We knew coming into the game that they were beatable,” Schmidt said. “We played them earlier in the year when that kid looked like he was throwing absolute heat. At the end of the season, we’ve seen more pitching and better pitchers. Guys like that seem to slow down and everything becomes easier as you go.”
Borgia Strikes First
This time, the shutout lasted for two outs.
After Schmidt got out of the top of the first with two strikeouts, Borgia hit a pair of flies to right field before Schmidt drew a walk. Courtesy runner Tyler Stieffermann stole second before Hunter walked.
Eckelkamp then stepped up and drilled a liner to left to plate Stieffermann.
“That was one of the points we made going into the game,” Eckelkamp said. “We needed to score runs early and make a statement that we were here. I got up there and tried to drive a pitch, but it got in on my hands a little bit. Luckily, I got enough on the handle to put it into play and over the shortstop. That run was huge so Joe was able to pitch with a lead and throw his stuff. I think it was awesome.”
Borgia led 1-0 after an inning.
“In a playoff game, any time you can score first, it helps your guys calm down,” Struckhoff said. “We said we’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder because we’re the unranked team here. We wanted to show people what we could do.”
The big frame was the second. Borgia again rallied with two outs, starting with a Foster Lynchard single. It was a high pop-up which eluded the Helias second baseman.
That was just the opening Borgia needed. Lynchard raced all the way around the bases on a Jack Czeschin double and eluded a tag from Helias catcher Michael Snyder to make it 2-0. Czeschin went to third on the throw home and scored on a Bryce Mayer single to center.
“We’ve been a good two-out hitting team all year,” Struckhoff said. “We’ve had some rallies with two outs. Our guys are aggressive and we’re going to swing the bat. We have a confident bunch. We’ve been hitting the ball all year.”
Mayer was able to score when Schmidt parked a 2-1 offering from Davidson over the center field wall.
That made it 5-0 and was all the scoring for both teams.
From there, the pitchers and defenses took over.
Davidson managed to make it through the sixth while reaching his pitch limit. With Borgia holding, that’s all Helias needed.
Davidson (7-2) allowed five runs on six hits and three walks while striking out nine.
When Helias put a runner on base, Borgia came up with big plays. Of the four runners, two were erased on double plays. That included the final two outs in the seventh as Czeschin fielded a Davidson grounder and started a double play with Mayer in the pivot and Hunter making the final out at first.
“We played very good defense with a couple of double plays there. Mayer and Czeschin made some good plays up the middle. Joe made some good plays bouncing off the mound, too.”
“Those were big and were a great help behind me,” Schmidt said. “They’ve been solid all year. Those boys have been amazing. This is a great group of guys.”
Borgia ended with six hits. Schmidt homered while Czeschin doubled. Mayer, Hunter, Eckelkamp and Lynchard singled.
Schmidt, Hunter and Eckelkamp drew walks.
Czeschin, Mayer, Schmidt, Stieffermann and Lynchard scored the runs.
Stieffermann, Hunter and Josh Garbs stole bases.
Tyler Glosemeyer posted a sacrifice bunt and nearly beat it out for a hit.
Helias got a walk from Snyder while Zach Woehr and Trevor Austin were hit by pitches.