Outfielder shows power in Missouri baseball's sweep of Nebraska

Sunday, May 16, 2010 | 4:52 p.m. CDT; updated 8:01 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 16, 2010

COLUMBIA — If you look at Jonah Schmidt, chances are you don’t picture a guy who hits a lot singles.

At 6 feet, 3 inches and 213 pounds, Schmidt makes some of his teammates on the Missouri baseball team look like T-ball players. He’s big and he can hit the ball a long way.

Schmidt, a junior outfielder, sent a ball sailing well past the scoreboard in left field during the sixth inning of the Tigers' 6-5 victory over Nebraska on Sunday at Taylor Stadium. With the win, Missouri earned a series sweep of the Cornhuskers.

Because of Schmidt’s strength and size, it’s a bit surprising that it was just his seventh home run of the year. It’s not a low number, but Schmidt has the ability to hit a lot more.

Schmidt said he loves to hit the long ball, but in the past has found himself trying too hard to hit home runs. This resulted in a slump that had Schmidt spending more time on the bench than in the lineup. Not a good thing for the Tigers because of the team’s lack of right-handed power hitters.

The team needed Schmidt to turn it around and he has. Schmidt said the key to getting out of the slump was to change his mindset and approach.

“You never want to aim for the fences,” Schmidt said. “You just want to square balls up. I went through a little period in there where I was getting my hands underneath the ball and not staying on top. I think making that adjustment has really helped me in the last couple of weeks.”

MU coach Tim Jamieson said he thinks Schmidt is becoming a more complete hitter. Rather than trying to hit the ball to left field during every at-bat, he is sending balls to all fields and just trying to make solid contact.

Jamieson said if he can make this a permanent change, Schmidt could become one of the Tigers' best hitters.

“He’s dangerous,” Jamieson said. “His bat has a lot of thunder in it. If he can become more of a hitter like he’s been doing, he’s one more guy in the lineup that they (opposing teams) have to worry about."

First baseman Aaron Senne, who, like Schmidt, is big and strong, said in the past he has been guilty of trying too hard to hit home runs. Senne, a team leader, said realizing that home runs aren’t everything has helped Schmidt’s turnaround.

“I’ve repeatedly reminded him when he takes too big a hack,” Senne said. “It’s just like, ‘Jonah, you don’t have to swing that hard. You’re a giant. If you hit the ball, you’re swinging half that hard, you’re still going to hit it a mile.’ He’s really started to realize that and made the adjustment, and he’s killing the ball now.”

Schmidt brings more to the table than just his bat. If he’s not playing, Schmidt still works hard, cheers on his teammates and provides leadership. Schmidt said the whole team has come together.

“The character of this team is wonderful,” Schmidt said. “Even through when we struggled early in the Big 12 season, we always came out and we fought as hard as we could. I think it’s just finally starting to pay off."

Schmidt now has a career-long hitting steak of nine games, and he has gotten hot at the right time. The Tigers are battling to make the Big 12 Conference tournament and still hope to make a run at an eighth-straight regional tournament.

Missouri (27-22, 10-13 Big 12) starts its final regular season series of the season against Texas (41-8, 21-3 Big 12) at 6 p.m., Friday at Taylor Stadium. Texas is ranked No. 1 in the country in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

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