Preston Schumacher saved the best start of his career for the biggest stage.
The Timber Creek pitcher tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out 12 to lead the Wolves to their first ever state baseball championship.
“There have been a lot of really good players, very successful players but none of them have had the opportunity to pitch in a state championship, much less win the state championship so it was very special,” Schumacher said.
The junior baffled Orange City University’s lineup, allowing just five hits in a 5-0 victory on June 3.
“I knew he could get us deep into the game,” Wolves coach Tim Beaman said. “I don’t know if I thought he would get us six and two-thirds but it was quite a performance for him.”
It was Schumacher’s first start since in nearly a month. Timber Creek ace Bret Neilan started all three regional games and the state semifinal against Jupiter.
But he made the most of his opportunity in the state final.
“Coach Todd [Hearn] said before the game, ‘Take us to the dogpile’,” Schumacher said. “After the game he said ‘I told you, I told you you’d take us to the dogpile’ so that was a very emotional moment for me.”
Schumacher entered the game with a 3-4 record but was able to locate his breaking ball and work ahead of the University hitters.
“I actually didn’t throw very well in the bullpen,” Schumacher said. “I was actually quite erratic and after that first inning, I started settling down and getting into a rhythm and I just cruised along.”
Schumacher reached the pitch count limit (105 pitches) with two outs in the seventh inning and was removed to a standing ovation and hugs from teammates and coaches.
“It was cool to see him come off the field, get the reception that he got, with everyone in the dugout and fans cheering,” Beaman said.
“I thought that was a really good moment for Preston.”