Matt Scheffler absorbed a crucial aspect of sports while playing baseball at Lake Washington High that has been ingrained in his mind over time.
While starting at catcher his senior season for the 2016 Kangs squad that won the school’s first state baseball championship, Scheffler learned about team unity.
“How important being a well-meshed team is — we were all really close on that 2016 team. We knew how to communicate on the field, that kind of turned out to be the brand of Lake Washington High School baseball,” Scheffler said.
That scenario remains strong for Scheffler at Auburn University, where he played for the Tigers team that participated in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The junior catcher singled in the Tigers’ 5-4 loss to Mississippi State in the teams’ opener on June 16. Scheffler singled and doubled in Auburn’s 5-3 elimination loss to Louisville on June 19. The latter game was delayed by rain after four innings on June 18 and resumed the following day.
Auburn compiled a 38-28 overall record and Scheffler finished with 12 doubles, two homers and 28 RBIs, including a .989 fielding percentage.
At the Super Regionals to qualify for the CWS, Auburn first beat the University of North Carolina, 11-7, lost the next game to UNC, 2-0, and stamped its spot to Omaha with a bang and a 14-7 victory over UNC, during which Scheffler singled and had two RBIs.
“I think it was just all of us knowing that we were good enough to be there,” Scheffler said of making the CWS. “Nobody really had us there, they all were expecting us to lose, we weren’t even projected to make a regional. So that kind of gave us a little bit of motivation.”
Scheffler added that head coach Butch Thompson and his staff had maximum belief in their team and knew they possessed the heart to get to Omaha.
“Skill only takes you so far, but heart really takes you to the next level,” Scheffler said.
Auburn had to butt heads with adversity and put it into the Tigers’ rearview mirror a few times this season. In the first game of the campaign, they lost their stalwart pitcher Davis Daniel (he would have elbow surgery and miss the entire season); another pitcher, Tanner Burns, battled with arm soreness; and a trio of returning sluggers didn’t produce their expected numbers.
Game by game and series by series, Scheffler said it was a huge team effort and everyone deserved the trip to Omaha.
“It was unreal, if I’m being honest. It’s hard to put into words, just ‘cause how hard everybody worked and how much adversity we went through and how much everybody wanted it: from the coaching staff to the pitchers to the position players to the fans to the parents and all the support staff,” he said.
At LW, Scheffler also faced adversity, playing on the C team his first two years and then rising to varsity part time as a junior before cementing himself in the catchers’ spot his senior season.
“So when the opportunity came, I just had to be prepared to present myself and show everybody that I was meant to be there,” he said.
He knew Nation Wood and Jesus Vizcarra well as members of the 2016 Kang squad and followed those guys and their teammates on Twitter and Facebook as they notched another 3A state championship this season. He caught the last few innings of the title game on live stream.
“Those guys worked just as hard as anybody and they reminded me a lot of the 2016 team where they were all just pretty close-knit,” Scheffler said.