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Healthy Schepel heats up at plate
By Drew DeVries

With his team compiling the finest baseball season in school history with an overall record of 32-10, including an MIAA championship 23-5 conference mark, sophomore shortstop Matt Schepel also enjoyed the finest season of his collegiate career. While his team cracked’s top-25 poll for the first time this spring and finished 25th in the final poll of the year, Schepel also etched his named into the Calvin record books.

Over the course of the season, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian High School graduate established Calvin single-season records for home runs (9), hits (56), runs batted in (38), runs scored (37) and total bases (98). He also finished third in the final MIAA batting race with a .409 conference batting average and landed a spot on the All-MIAA first team.

Matt Schepel Schepel finished the season with an overall batting average of .415, which ranks third on the all-time Calvin single-season list. He carried an average above .500 into the third week of April and at one point was ranked third nationally in batting average.

“I guess one of the biggest parts to my success this season was being healthy,” Schepel said. “After that, I was just able to be more relaxed and comfortable. Coach [John Sparks] made it a point to make sure that we all stayed relaxed, and that formula worked.”

After an injury-plagued freshman season where Schepel was forced to play third, he moved back to shortstop this spring where he feels most comfortable. “It’s great being healthy. Last year I couldn’t run fast, and I didn’t have that full range,” he said. “But this year I was healthy and felt very comfortable. I’ve played short my whole life.”

Thanks to corrective knee surgery before this year’s season, Schepel was able to right some of his knee problems that stem back to his high school football playing days. Having his quickness back not only helped him gain that full range in the infield, but also helped him on the bases—a place he grew quite accustomed to this season, as he finished the year with a .509 on-base percentage.

Schepel also credits his great season to the rest of his team hitting so well. “It’s a lot easier to be hitting well and have confidence when our whole team is hitting so well and playing great,” he said.

Along with Schepel, Coach Sparks had his entire team relaxed and hitting the ball well as the Knights finished the year with a team batting average of .322. “Coach has been telling me not to try to do too much,” Schepel said. “He just tells me to hit my pitch, and when the rest of the team is playing well, it’s easy to do that."

Sparks said Schepel was one of the reasons why Calvin had such great success in his first year as a head coach.

“Matt had a tremendous year,” Sparks said. “His bat in the middle of our lineup sparked our offense for a major portion of the season. We talked before the year began, and I challenged him to have this kind of season. We knew he could do this if he worked hard and stayed consistent in his approach. To his credit, it transpired pretty well.”