Batters didn't want to step into the box to face him, pitchers didn't want to throw to him and coaches did their best to make sure someone else beat them.
Jack Schroeder was the ultimate five-tool player for Mt. Hebron this season when he had an opportunity to showcase his talent. The senior led the league with 18 walks at the plate yet still managed 20 hits, including three doubles and three triples, 20 runs scored, 11 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and he hit for a .370 average with an on-base percentage of .563 hitting in the middle of the order.
On the mound, however, Schroeder was even more dominant. He struck out 47 batters and allowed five earned runs, 20 hits and 13 walks for a 1.09 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 32 innings pitched. At his best, he was all but untouchable.
All that individual success, however, doesn't always translate to team success. But for Schroeder, his mere presence on the diamond over his four-year varsity career essentially changed the Mt. Hebron program from mediocrity to state-championship contender. The Vikings over the last four years won more games than almost any other span in program history. They won the 3A East regional championship and reached the state championship game in 2015 for the first time in 25 years.
Through it all, Schroeder was the one constant, and it's why he is this year's Howard County Times/Columbia Flier baseball Player of the Year.
"I've been here for 11 years ... and I'm not sure there was a more winning player in his tenure in high school," said Mt. Hebron coach Brian Culley. "Three straight regional championship game appearances prior to this year and he did whatever it took to win, that's all he was ever concerned about. He's the consummate team guy with a boatload of ability. He can do it all and is willing to do whatever it takes."
Looking at the bigger picture, Schroeder's impact on the program looms even larger. The Vikings went 44-21 in county and 59-29 overall the last four years with Schroeder being named a first-team all-county outfielder as a sophomore and junior.
Over his three all-county campaigns, he totaled 71 hits, 53 runs, 46 RBIs, 18 extra-base hits, 39 walks, 24 stolen bases and a .383 batting average. And over his final 112.2 inning pitched, he went 10-5, had 154 strikeouts, 48 walks, allowed 23 earned runs and 60 hits for an ERA of 1.43 and a WHIP of .96.
But the only thing Schroeder cared to reflect on was how many games his team won.
"We kind of created an expectation of winning," Schroeder said. "We had some really good players on these teams to help guide me along the right route. We just won, which hasn't really been the tradition at Hebron. Hebron's traditionally been a losing school. ... It was all about winning. It was a lot more than I expected, honestly."
With Schroeder in the fold, winning games naturally came easier. Culley said Schroeder was "legitimately" the best player he had at any position on the field. He started at five different positions his junior year and played multiple positions again this spring.
"I could put him in the middle infield if I had to, he could play shortstop ... He can play the outfield really well. He just loves the game of baseball and he works really hard at it," Culley said. "His best quality is that he's unassuming. It would be really easy for him to be cocky because of his God-given talent, but you wouldn't know he was the best player I've ever coached at Hebron unless you asked somebody else about it."
Schroeder enjoys pitching more than anything, and his tenacity on the mound proves as much. He throws his fastball in the upper 80s and has topped out at 90 miles per hour, but his best pitch is his slider, which Culley said he can throw in any count.
"When my arm feels good, pitching is my favorite thing to do on the diamond. When I'm throwing that fastball by people and they can't catch up to it, I just have fun with it. I take pride in my slider," Schroeder said. "... I just try to pitch to contact. In the end it's not about getting as many strikeouts as I can. That looks good on the stat sheet but really what I want is the wins. If I'm in there for a long period of time I think that gives us the best chance to win."
Said Culley: "He takes the ball with the mindset of never giving it back to somebody. He's got that mentality. There's a confidence about him. It's not arrogance, but it's a confidence in his ability to get the job done and do whatever it takes. On the mound, he becomes a quiet assassin. You can see the intensity and he just goes about his business and never gets too high or too low. He's got a tenacity about him and a competitive streak that just doesn't stop."
Schroeder got a late start in recruiting but garnered interest from several Division-I programs through his play at Mt. Hebron and his travel team, EvoShield Canes. Ultimately, he chose to play collegiately at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond before his junior season and his goal is to one day be drafted and play professional baseball.
"When it rains, it pours. It all happened really fast but VCU was the first to recruit me," he said. "Honestly, it was their coaching staff and VCU was the best fit. ... I had two visits there and they were really professional. There was no point in waiting."
What position he will play in college, however, is still up for debate. Culley, who played and coached at McDaniel College, believes Schroeder can excel at both the plate and on the mound for the Rams. Schroeder said he committed as a pitcher but impressed his college coach with his bat as well.
"I just want to take it as far as I can with both until someone tells me I can't," Schroeder said. "I feel like I can contribute with both, but it all depends on them and what they want from me."