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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
UT's Schrader stays focused playing with heavy heart

Jake Schrader played with a heavy heart.

The University of Tampa senior third baseman had no other choice.

"It's been tough for him," Spartans coach Joe Urso said. "His grandmother just died and he's had everything on the line for himself."

Just days before Tampa was set to host the South Regional tournament, Schrader, a Pasco High product, saw his grandmother pass away. It was an emotional few days, but Schrader kept his focus and helped the Spartans win its 15th South Regional championship and return to the Division II College World Series.

Tampa will play today at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., facing Coker at 1 p.m.

"I was just trying to do anything I could for her and for the team," Schrader said after the on-field celebration that followed the Spartans downing West Florida 20-7. "It's been hard to keep focus, but I'm here for my teammates and they've been here for me. It's been emotional, for sure."

Schrader took a simple approach heading into the four-day South regional tournament, where he "just wanted to see the ball and hit the ball." Schrader did that and more last Sunday when, over two games, he hit two home runs, including a tape-measure three-run bomb, and drove in six RBIs. On top of that, Schrader made the last out that clinched the Spartans' trip to the World Series.

"I've never been part of a (celebration) dog pile," said Schrader, who as a senior at Pasco in 2009, batted .554 to go with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. "(I'm) speechless (I got the last out), but I loved being at the bottom of that dog pile."

Before arriving at Tampa as a junior last season when he batted .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs, Schrader played two seasons at St. Johns River Community College in Palatka, belting 31 homers and driving in 100 RBIs.

But when Schrader came to the Spartans, it was clear he planned to be a leader.

"Right when he got here, you saw immediately that his plan was to take over and be the leader and the captain," Urso said. "When things are going well or things aren't going well, he keeps his personality the same, no matter what and that's what a captain does. I'm so glad to take him to a World Series his senior year."

And heading to the World Series will lift Schrader's heavy heart.

"It's been our goal since Day One," Schrader said. "It's all we've talked about. conference titles are good, regional titles a great, but the main goal is to get the College World Series and bring the (title) back to Tampa."

Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at mike.camunas@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.