JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Canfield's Schutz powers Bearcats' offense
CINCINNATI -- A positive change in attitude has resulted in a positive change in performance by Brad Schutz, in his junior season with the University of Cincinnati baseball team.
The Bearcats' starting shortstop, a Canfield High graduate, is having more fun than last year playing the game that he loves, and his improved statistics reflect his happier and optimistic mood.
"I am going out and having fun playing like when I was a freshman, like I had fun playing in high school and Little League. It's pretty much a changed attitude on my part," said Schutz, who recently led the team in seven offensive statistical categories.
"I just kind of realized that if I go out there and play hard every day and have fun and just do the best I can do, [I'll do better]," Schutz said. "I can't control where the ball is going, whether it goes to a defensive player or for a hit. All you can do is hope that the balls go through."
A big gun: Entering last week, Schutz ranked No. 1 on the team in batting average (.396), hits (53), at-bats (134), runs (33), doubles (9), total bases (83), slugging percentage (.619), and was tied for homers (7) and ranked No. 2 in RBIs (22).
His .396 average recently was ranked No. 5 among regulars in the Conference USA.
Those are impressive numbers considering that he batted only .161 (9-for-56) last year with just 11 starts, after a fairly good beginning as a freshman with .257 (44-for-171) with 42 starts.
However, the Bearcats as a whole have not been as impressive so far this season with a 12-18-1 record, including 2-9-1 in Conference USA under coach Brian Cleary.
Schutz also credits a new swing of the bat for his turnaround.
"I changed my swing a little bit to just the way I was more comfortable at," Schutz said. "I feel a lot more loose and relaxed. My hands feel loose and quicker and I am using my legs a lot when I swing," explained Schutz. "My hitting coach [Brad Meador] has helped quite a bit."
Plus, "I am a lot more experienced and a lot stronger."
Steady at shortstop: In addition, he believes that playing one defensive position regularly has been helpful after a freshman year of second base and as designated hitter, and a sophomore season switching between second base and shortstop.
"It makes it easier because you know where you are playing every day. You know what to expect. There are no surprises," Schutz said.
"I bat second in the batting order. My position in the batting order is more consistent since I am playing only one position."
His contentment at shortstop has shown up in his sharp defensive with many opportunities.
"I have six errors at shortstop this year, but I lead the Conference USA in assists , so I have had quite a few plays. I have had quite a few chances," Schutz said.
"I have been doing pretty well at shortstop. My coach mentioned that he believes I am the best defensive infielder we have, and that when the ball is hit to me, he breathes a sigh of relief knowing that I will make the play," Schutz said.
The son of Ron and Lisbeth Schutz, Brad has a 3.5 grade-point average majoring in business finance, and would like to become a Certified Public Accountant.
He also was nominated by his coach for the Jean Stephens Award for character within the athletic department this year, and was a finalist.
Background: While at Canfield, Schutz was a two-time All-Metro Athletic Conference pick.
As a senior, he batted .420 with 32 RBIs, 36 runs, 14 stolen bases and a .567 on-base percentage, to lead the team to a 24-3 record. His coaches were Lee Frey and Phil Bova as a senior and Dick Duffet as a junior.
In a few weeks, Schutz expects to return for his third season to the Youngstown Express of the Great Lakes League, a collegiate wooden bat circuit.
Previous to the Express, he played several seasons for the Astro Falcons in the Class B League.