Ball State’s Designated Hitter: Scheffler has successful first season playing for Cardinals
MUNCIE, Ind. — By all means, the freshman season for Decker Scheffler was one in which he made an immediate impact.
Scheffler, who was the DH for the Division I Ball State University Cardinals in his freshman year, hit .288 this year with three home runs, 22 RBIs and five stolen bases in 45 games played. He made 29 starts and also played a little bit in left field as the Cardinals were 38-18. He’s been working at first base too and that’s a possibility for him down the road.
Scheffler, who played all over the infield at Springfield High School, had to adjust to the DH position and it was tough not being in the field at times for him. He said he knew it was going to be tough to find playing time this year because last year’s seniors were allowed to come back to play this year because COVID prevented them from playing last year.
“I knew it was going to be tough getting some playing time this year with all of the seniors [from last year] getting the year back, so I knew it was going to be a grind to get some time, but to be able to be in that DH spot for a few games has been kind of nice,” Scheffler said. “I’ve never DHed before in my life before so it’s something new and I actually kind of like it.”
Scheffler, who hit leadoff for the Springfield Tigers for a good part of his career, was down at the back end of the order for the Cardinals, which was also an adjustment for him. He said he’s moved around in the order, hitting anywhere from the second spot to sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. However, he’s made the most of his stolen base attempts, swiping five of six attempts.
Scheffler committed to Ball State last spring, but he didn’t get to play his senior season at Springfield because of COVID. He started getting ready for the fall baseball practice season by playing amateur baseball and lifting weights.
Scheffler said he put on about 10 pounds of muscle, but the Ball State coaching staff doesn’t want him to get much bigger because they want to be able to use his speed as an asset. He said that during the regular season, he’ll lift twice a week and three times a week during the offseason.
Scheffler knew playing Division I baseball would be tough, especially with last year’s senior class back and possibly having them take away playing time from the younger players. But he’s adjusted well and he’s enjoyed the ride so far.
“It’s a grind, but it’s fun grind, we’ve been playing baseball six days a week and since the first week of September, other than the month off we got for winter break,” Scheffler said. “In the fall, that was kind of nerve-wracking, as a freshman, we didn’t know what to expect. We knew all those older guys were coming back, we had to prove ourselves in the fall. Other than that, it’s fun. You really get to build a strong relationship with the older guys.”
He said that his team’s start was pushed back last fall.
“We got off to a late start because I think about half our team tested positive or were contact traced the first day we had practice,” he said. “Right away it was just a lot of individual work, so you’d go with guys at your position and you’d do some defensive stuff and you’d hit with those guys, or I would hit with a few left-handed hitters. Then we got into some practices and eventually we were scrimmaging two to three times a week. Once that got going, we got into a routine where certain pitchers would throw on Monday and then on Wednesday other pitchers would throw, that’s kind of when you had to prove yourself a little bit.”
Speaking of pitchers, Scheffler noticed a big change at the Division I level.
“The first thing that I noticed that was way different than high school was just the velocity of the pitchers and the different pitches that they can throw and just the spots they can hit is just ridiculous,” Scheffler said. “We have a pitcher that’s been here five or six years, watching him is just crazy. And just to see the size of some of these hitters and how far they can hit the ball in BP and in games, you get on the road in places like Arizona and Kentucky, you see some of the sizes of those guys, it’s crazy but you get used to it after a while.
“We consistently see some guys [who throw] 89-93 miles per hour, you get some guys that up to 95, and this weekend one of their pitchers is 95-100 miles per hour, so you get used to it, but it’s still fun having that competition day in and day out.”
As far as the season goes, the Cardinals finished second in the Mid-American Conference behind Central Michigan. Ball Stated wrapped up the regular season with a series against Miami (Ohio) and didn’t qualify for the tournament. But Scheffler is happy with how the season went for the Cardinals.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, we got tested right away because we had to play four games against Arizona and right now I think they’re ranked eighth in the nation,” Scheffler said. “You just kind of get used to it and see how things roll every week.”
As for this summer, Scheffler plans on playing summer wood bat league in Danville, Illinois in the Prospect League. His brother’s wedding is in June so he’ll be returning home for that but there’s a possibility he could be playing in the Northwoods League this summer after the Prospect League. He also thinks he’ll be able to get a few games in with the Springfield amateur baseball team later on this summer.
As for him personally, he’s happy with how he played this year.
“Honestly I’d give it a 10,” he said. “School work went well, that’s another thing I didn’t know what to expect, if the school work was going to be a lot harder than high school, especially with COVID, everything might be online, but that went well. I didn’t know how much playing time I’d get with everyone coming back, but I got my opportunity early and I’ve taken pretty good advantage of it and ended up being a regular guy and I’ve been blessed for that, too. The coaches have been great and I’ve built great relationships, so I’d give it a 10.”