Prep Baseball & Softball

It doesn’t matter to her where she plays. Miranda Schulte just wants to hit.

Freeburg junior Miranda Schulte prepares for an at bat against Dupo last spring. The fourth-year starter was a BND all-area pick as a sophomore and a junior.
Freeburg junior Miranda Schulte prepares for an at bat against Dupo last spring. The fourth-year starter was a BND all-area pick as a sophomore and a junior.

She’s the first in line at the batting cage every day.

And her first move between innings is to check the lineup to see when her spot is up next, then maybe have a word with her dad to discuss the opposing pitcher.

Miranda Schulte likes to hit a softball.

“When you’re good at something, you want to do it all the time,” said Freeburg head coach Ben Howes.

Still just a junior at Freeburg, Schulte already is one of the most prolific practitioners of the craft in the metro-east.

As a sophomore in 2016, she ranked among the top five in most statistical categories. She batted .533 (fifth) with 10 home runs (third), 51 RBIs (second), a .592 on-base percentage (fifth), and slugged 1.056 (second).

Then again, hitting is in Schulte’s DNA.

Her grandfather is Lee Schulte, a former minor league baseball player and 33-year head baseball coach at Marissa. Her mom, Marsha Schulte, was a member of the 1984 Marissa softball team that won a school-record 26 games and reached to the state semifinals. She was inducted into the Meteor Hall of Fame just last week.

The thing is I want to go to a bigger program in college and some pitchers don't hit at the bigger universities. I just want to hit.

Miranda Schulte, Freeburg junior slugger

And her father is Mark Schulte, who batted .575 as a senior in Marissa before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals as an outfielder and first baseman in 1982.

“Me and my dad have always been out in the cage hitting. He helps me work on things, telling me what I’m doing right and helping me fix what I’m doing wrong,” Miranda Schulte said. “ I’ve been playing since T-ball and every time I needed some work, he’s been there. It’s been great having him as like a personal coach.”

Team success followed Schulte’s performance in 2016. The Midgets reached the IHSA Class 3A super-sectional, which they lost to 13-7 to eventual third-place state finisher Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.

But Freeburg graduated a lot of offense from a senior-dominated lineup that included Kimmie Hoffman, Jenny Homann and Josie Ledbetter, who hit a combined .418 with 14 home runs.

This spring, Schulte’s spot in the order is buffered by a much-younger supporting cast. The Midgets have just two seniors on the roster.

“We did lose a lot from last year, but we still have some talent on our team,” Schulte said. “We’ll still compete.”

So far, so good.

.533Schulte’s batting average as a sophomore in 2016 ranked third in the St. Louis region

10Home runs hit by Schulte that ranked third in the region last year

51Her RBIs as a sophomore that ranked second

Freeburg improved to 2-1 with a win at O’Fallon on Wednesday. Schulte is 3-for-8 with a pair of runs batted in. The Midgets are finding other sources of offense, too, namely senior Hannah Harbaugh whose .500 average, two home runs and four RBI’s currently lead the team.

Still, there will always be added pressure on Schulte to consistently live up to the high standards she’s already set for herself, Howes said.

“She’s been under pressure since her freshman year because she’s had to carry the load,” he said. “I think she puts a lot of pressure on herself. Just because she’s good, you know, she’s still a kid.

“The problem with stats is you always try to repeat them and it’s different because she’s got a big bulls eye on her back. Teams aren’t going to let her beat them.”

The target follows her to the pitcher’s circle, where she also ranks among the area’s best. She was 16-5 last season with a 1.58 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 128.3 innings pitched.

Schulte admits she feels the pressure to perform, but adds that most of the stress is self-inflicted.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, for sure,” she said. “But I try to focus on the moment and just have some fun.”

She's been under pressure since her freshman year because she's had to carry the load ... Just because she's good, you know, she's still a kid.

Ben Howes, Freeburg softball coach

In the meantime, she’ll be entertaining college offers this spring. Her immediate preference is Missouri State, where summer-time teammates Kelly Metter of Columbia and Alex Boze of Belleville East are headed. She also likes the University of Evansville.

Howes says Schulte’s best position defensively is first base, though she rarely gets time to play there for the Midgets. When she’s not pitching, she’s mostly in the outfielder or third base.

Wherever she lands on the field, Schulte says, doesn’t much matter.

“I like first or third and I play some outfield. Really, I’d go anywhere except for catcher,” she said. “The thing is I want to go to a bigger program in college and some pitchers don’t hit at the bigger universities.

“I just want to hit.”

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman