For Schneider, La Salle, focus is on team

Posted: June 13, 2014

BRAD SCHNEIDER was just a sophomore for La Salle High in 2012 when he stepped to the plate, knees knocking in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA playoffs.

Schneider, who missed nearly that entire Catholic League season with an ankle injury, was called upon in the seventh inning in a sacrifice-bunt situation against Central Dauphin.

"First at-bat pretty much of that whole year," Schneider said Wednesday as the Explorers (18-5) prepared for today's PIAA championship game. "I was so nervous, but I got the bunt down and, on the next pitch, Ryan Otis hit a sacrifice fly and we went to the semifinals."

La Salle's 7-6 victory against Central Dauphin helped pave the Explorers' way to the 2012 state title, and the experience could ultimately help in today's title bout against District 1's No. 3 seed Conestoga at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in State College.

"It was one of the biggest moments [at that point] in my baseball career," Schneider said. "And that's really paid off a lot now because I feel so relaxed and I'm just having fun out here."

And that has meant trouble for opposing pitchers.

Schneider, now a senior second baseman, is La Salle's leading hitter this postseason. The Ambler resident is 11-for-26 (.423) with seven runs scored on an Explorers squad batting .249. Not bad for a guy who batted No. 9 last season.

After a sprained ankle scuttled his sophomore season, Schneider said he pressed to impress as a junior.

"I really just think I put too much pressure on myself," said Schneider, who now hits No. 2. "I had a lot of expectations and this year I've really just been able to play the way I know how."

Senior catcher Nick Dermo is the team's second-leading postseason hitter, at 8-for-24 (.333) with two doubles. La Salle skipper Joe Parisi hadn't yet decided on today's starter, but senior stud Dom Cuoci (St. Joesph's University) could be available after pitching a two-hit shutout in Monday's semifinal against Spring-Ford. Senior lefty John Scheffey is another possibility.

For Conestoga (22-7), lefthander Jake Bufo could start for the Pioneers, who won their first state title in 2011.

As for Schneider, who will play at Scranton next season, 10 pounds of muscle might have helped his 5-10, 165-pound frame at the plate, but the biggest change might have happened upstairs.

"I had these big expectations for myself to go D-I," he said. "I just got back to playing the way I knew how to play and that's what's gotten me here.

"I have a lot more confidence in myself. I know who I am and I'm much more confident with the repetitions I've had in the offseason."

A second-team PCL Red Division coaches' selection this season, Schneider said his performance improved when he focused on how he could help the team, which included two sac-bunts against Spring-Ford. The second bunt helped break a scoreless tie when Cuoci evenutally singled in junior A.J. Grezeszak in the sixth.

"I think when you think about [the team], you stop worrying about yourself and you get in a groove," Schneider said.

Academically, Schneider gravitates toward English and writing, but will study business at Scranton, with his eyes on real estate like his dad, Kurt.

And after the disappointment of losing in the CL playoffs, another state title might be a nice senior sendoff.

"I just think it's really neat that we didn't go to the [CL] championship, but now we have second life here," Schneider said. "Trying to win a state championship is like a once-in-a-lifetime. Now, it's like second-in-a-lifetime. It's just really special."

But while his bat heated up after he let go of personal expectations, would Schneider mind laying down another sac bunt, or would he rather slap the championship-winning single?

"The game-winning hit would definitely be a lot cooler, but I would not mind laying down the sac bunt," he texted later. "Whatever I have to do to help the team win."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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