The month of May saw two players - one from each end of the county - tie for Bryan County Athlete of the Month. BCHS track star D.J. McElroy will be featured next week while this issue spotlights co-winner and RHHS baseball star Matt Schlag.
When crunch time came at the end of the season for Richmond Hill head baseball coach Mitchell Curry observed that one player more than the rest helped carry the load in the games leading up to and through their play off run. Matthew Schlag didn’t disappoint his coach or his teammates in his late season efforts and now it has earned him May’s Bryan County News Co-Athlete of the Month.
Schlag received the award recently along with an Achievement of Athletic Excellence certificate from Beef ‘O’ Brady’S in front of, friends, family and Coach Curry at the local restaurant.
Whether it was from the mound, at the plate, or on the field Schlag personified the kind of quiet leadership by example a team looks to when it aspires to play at a higher level. His team mates recognized him for that by awarding him the team’s Most Valuable Player Award shortly after the seasons end.
Statistically Schlag was the leading starting pitcher on the team with five wins against only two losses and one save. He finished the season with a 3.8 ERA and 47 strike outs, good for an average of over one strike out an inning. He also finished with the most hits on the team, 35 in 27 games, had the second highest batting average at .393 and drove in 22 RBI’s while batting in the clean up spot. At third base very few hard hit balls ever got by him as Matt led a much improved Wildcat defense on the field.
Schlag picked up a critical elimination game win against Cross Creek in the region tournament to put his team in the state tournamnet and also made a good showing against a Columbus team that went all the way to the state finals.
When the 2007 regular and post season finally ended for the Wildcats at Columbus Schlag’s aspirations weren’t through. With the help of Curry he was able to gain a last minute spot on the Southeast Georgia Dugout Club roster just in time for their Memorial Day All-State tournament.Matt helped them win 2 of 3 games in the tournament, most notably a 6-3 win against the Northeast All-Stars in which he pitched the final three innings in relief and struck out seven batters with out a walk or allowing any earned runs to pick up the save. The performance earned him a place on the tournamnet all-star team and more importantly caught the eye of a couple of college coaches as well.
According to Matt’s father both the head coach and assistant coach from North Georgia College and State University, who had been observing the game from opposite sides of the field, made a bee line to Schlag after the game and wanted to know why he was not signed to play baseball anywhere. After an invitation and recent visit to the school in Dahlonega by Matthew and Parents Mark and Sarah Schlag, the only thing left to do before he joins the Saints team in August is an official signing.
While both his parents and coach were excited for his prospects Matt is taking it all in stride and reflected back on his final season as a Wildcat.
"One more win and we may have played Columbus in the quarter finals instead of the first round" remarked Schlag on his teams narrow second place finish to South Effingham. While it was a season to remember, both individually and as a team, Schlag’s competitive nature makes it hard for him to let it go. "We did an awesome job getting there but could have done even better." explained Schlag. Ever since he was a toddler Matthew’ parents had seen this competitive nature, ability, and leadership in their son.
From a complete game no hitter he threw in rec ball, to three other MVP awards on various teams and a coaches award for last season, the Schlag’s have enjoyed the years watching their son play ball but seem to take the most pride in knowing that all the awards he has received have been earned due to the example he sets for others and the respect he deserves from his coaches and team mates.