Miranda Schulte grew up with a ball, a bat and a glove in her hands.
The only child of a former minor league baseball player and an all-state softball standout, Schulte competed in basketball in grade school and played volleyball for a time while attending Freeburg High School. But from the time she played t-ball for the first time at the age four until now, her athletic passion has been softball.
Her parents, Mark and Marsha Schulte, have been there supporting her all the way.
“My parents have always been very supportive and never pushed. I mean every now and then they would yell at me to play better but it was never mean or anything that would have made me want to quit.’’ Schulte said. “It really wasn’t tough growing up in such an athletic family. It all came kind of natural. My dad was always helping me and my mom was always helping me.
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“It always came pretty naturally to and it was always fun. I always wanted to play softball.’’
For the past four years, Schulte has played it very well as a member of the Freeburg High School softball program.
A four-year starter for the Midgets, Schulte never hit below .400 and finished her career with 30 home runs and 164 RBI. On the mound, the Midgets ace was just as impressive as she posted a 72-17 record.
But the 2018 season was both her best and one of the best for the Midgets. The Belleville News-Democrat Class 3A-4A Player of the Year, Schulte batted a career high .560 with four home runs and 49 RBI. She also walked 29 times and finished her season slugging percentage of 1.000.
As a pitcher she was 26-2 for a Freeburg squad which finished 28-2 and tied Columbia for the Cahokia Conference championship. In a career high 175 innings on the mound, Schulte had 237 strike outs and walked only 46 hitters as she posted an earned-run average of 1.28.
But as dominating as Schulte was during the 2018 season, it was a team effort which helped Freeburg enjoy a great season which ended with a disappointing loss to Centralia in the Class 3A Sectional title game.
“This season was just amazing. I don’t think anyone could have imagined that we would have the kind of year we did,’’ Schulte said. We lost some players from last year but we had other who stepped up. Colleen Cockrell led the entire St. Louis area with 55 RBI. She had an amazing season for us. Chasity Hill stepped up and played an amazing third base
“We just fed off each other. We were a true team. When we won, we won as a team and when we lost, we didn’t blame anyone.’’
Schulte’s accomplishments on the softball diamond have earned her a scholarship to play in the Big 10 Conference beginning next month at the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes were 21-32 during the spring and finished a disappointing 6-16 in the Big 10.
Schulte admits that she and her new teammates have work to join the upper echelon of the Big 10. But she is excited to be going to what she called a very good school
“It’s a good feeling to know that I’m going D-I and that I’m going to a good school in a great conference with a great reputation,’’ Schulte said. “I leave sometime around Aug. 14 and I think we’ll probably start working out soon after we get there.. They have a new conditioning coach and we have to be a able run a mile in seven minutes 30 or 1 1./2 miles in 12 minutes. We’re a little scared about that but we’ve all been working hard to be able to do it.
“Everything I hear about Iowa is really positive. I really haven’t heard anything negative about it.’’
Schulte is the latest in a growing number of metro east area athletes to choose Iowa to attend in recent years. Former Edwardsville High School standout Chris Brant was an All Big 10 Conference selection and a four year starter for the Hawkeyes golf program while former Nashville standout Shawn Rennegarbe was a member of the Hawkeyes women’s golf program last season after spending her first two years at the University of Arkansas.
A.J. Epenesa of Edwardsville is currently a standout defensive end for the Hawkeyes football team while two-time all-state forward Kate Martin of Edwardsville will be a freshman on the Iowa women’s basketball team.
It was a trip to Iowa for a camp earlier this year which may have been one of the keys to both Schulte’s and the Midgets season. Struggling with her change-up, Schulte got a tip from an Iowa coach.
“I went to Iowa for a camp before the season. My changeup wasn’t working that well last year and when I went to the camp I asked coach for help on how I was throwing my changeup. She taught me a different to throw it and this year it was a big difference for me.”
On offense, Schulte’s numbers were staggering this season. Her .560 average was a career best and her 49 RBI were second only to the 51 she had as a sophomore in 2016. But it was also somewhat of a frustrating time for Schulte who walked 29 times this season.
Included among the 29 walks were four straight intentional passes in a non-conference game against Mascoutah.
“It was tough at times because I got pitched around a lot. It was also frustrating because I got walked so much,’’ Schulte said. “Finally, I’m like OK, I walked and I’m on base.. It’s just another chance for us to score.’’
Recruited as a utility player at Iowa, Schulte expects to see playing time on the mound and in the infield. She knows being 4 1/2 hours from home will be an adjustment for everyone.
Her dad, Mark, who played several seasons in both the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals farm systems and mom, Marsha, a standout softball pitcher at Marissa High School already dread seeing their daughter leave home. Her grandfather, Lee Schulte, was the longtime Marissa High School baseball.
“It will be tough because I’m an only child and I’m the only grandchild on either side,’’ Schulte said. “But Iowa City is only 4 1/2 hours from home and they come and visit me anytime.
“My grandpa was at every one of my games. He would sit in his truck and watch from there. I t was wonderful to have his support.’’