PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Kory Schmidt making an impact on both sides of the ball
By Lance Catchings
When Liberty Hill was looking to stand out from the rest of the district in its two-game series against Lampasas, the team had to look no further than senior Kory Schmidt.
Schmidt is a three-year letterman and the starting catcher for the Panthers this season. The power hitter stepped to the plate with his 6’4, 220-pound frame and reminded the Badgers why most pitchers choose to walk him when he belted home runs in both games.
Head Coach Steven Hutcherson said Schmidt has been a vital part of the Panthers’ success this season, both on the field with his talents and off the field with his leadership.
“Kory is a huge player for us,” Hutcherson said. “As a catcher, he has to be willing to lead things vocally. They must be willing to lead even if they are not playing their best, and he has been able to do that. Offensively, everybody focuses on whether they are getting hits, but even on nights that he may feel he is struggling, he is still getting on base two and three times a night.”
Schmidt has been on fire from the plate lately, serving as an offensive spark for Liberty Hill over the back half of district play.
“In the past three or four games, he has had nights where he is getting two or three walks, and then he is having huge at-bats,” Hutcherson said. “If he is going good, then we feel like we are going good. In the Lampasas series, he was tough for us. He was either taking his walks and getting on base to give us some traffic, or he was putting a good swing on something, and in both games, that was the big moment that broke their back in both situations.”
Schmidt has played baseball most of his life, but only made the switch to catcher a few years ago. So far, he’s enjoyed the leadership aspect of the position.
“Being the catcher is pretty cool, because you are basically the leader of the team when you are out on defense,” Schmidt said. “I have only played catcher since my sophomore year, but once I made the switch from first base, I never looked back. I have always felt that catcher was one of the most important positions on the field, and I was happy to fill that role for my team. You are involved in every pitch and every play. You must keep the pitcher in check and tell your teammates what to do and where to go. I love playing the position. It is a great feeling knowing that we are one of the better defensive teams in the state. We play clean baseball, and we pride ourselves on that.”
With multiple stud pitchers on his team, Schmidt said they make his job easy on the defensive end.
“Playing with this group is a lot of fun,” he said. “They make my job easier, especially when (Wyatt) Cheney and (Kaden) Dydalewicz are on the mound. All I have to do is make sure they don’t get too wild up there and they do the rest.”
On the offensive end, Schmidt takes pride in being one of the power hitters in the Liberty Hill lineup this season.
“Most teams have been trying to pitch around me lately,” he said. “They hardly throw me any strikes, and I try to use that to my advantage since they are a little scared to pitch to me. I go to the mound looking for that mistake the pitcher could make almost every at-bat. Being one of the power hitters on the team is kind of nice. People rely on not just me, but other power guys in our lineup for run support and to drive in the guys who get on base for us.”
Schmidt said when he goes to the plate, he looks to make things happen for his team. In the Lampasas series, the results were sweet.
“Hitting home runs in back-to-back games against Lampasas was a great feeling,” he said. “Lampasas was undefeated and so were we, so that was the start of playoffs for us. We turned it up a couple notches, and those home runs were big. When I go to the plate, I always look to do damage to help my team out as best as possible. I thankfully came out with those results and hope to keep doing it.”
As Schmidt and his teammates prepare to open the bi-district series against Fredericksburg, he believes they are as focused as ever.
“Against Fredericksburg, we are looking to end it in two games as quickly as possible,” he said. “I think we are trying to not get wrapped up in the playoff hype. We just want to continue to play the way we play. If we can do that, we believe it will take us far. We believe this will be the first Liberty Hill State Championship in baseball we will come home with this season.”
Schmidt and his teammates open the best-of-three series against Fredericksburg Thursday night on the road at 7 p.m. and will host Fredericksburg in game two Friday night at 7 p.m.