Brant Schaffitzel missed only 12 games after breaking his ankle early this season and has been a mainstay as the Panthers lead their division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. (Photo: Drury University)

Brant Schaffitzel understands that professional baseball probably will not be knocking down his door with offers once his college baseball career concludes in a few weeks.

So it’s understandable that the Drury University graduate student wants to squeeze out as much joy from playing the game he loves as possible. Not even a broken ankle is going to stop him.

“Our second weekend of the season, I broke my ankle in two places on a freak play at first base,” Schaffitzel said after a recent practice. “I was striding out for first and hit the bag and snapped my ankle.

“I was in a boot for two weeks. Thankfully, our training staff is amazing and I only missed three weeks when it was supposed to be 8-12. It’s painful at times, but I would do anything to be out there for this last year.”

The Hillcrest High School graduate is one of the many success stories for the Panthers, who take a 29-13 record into this weekend’s Great Lakes Valley Conference series against Missouri-St. Louis at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark.

Drury Baseball this weekend

  • Friday – 5 p.m. vs. Missouri-St. Louis
  • Saturday – Noon (doubleheader) vs. Missouri-St. Louis
  • Sunday – Noon vs. Missouri-St. Louis

Games at US Baseball Park in Ozark

Experience, chemistry key to Drury’s success

Drury sits atop the Green Division of the GLVC, at 14-6, and at 29-13 overall is making a strong case to reach the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time since 2017.

“We have a lot of veteran guys and the chemistry on this team is fantastic,” Drury coach Scott Nasby said. 

Schaffitzel, in his fifth college season, is one of those veterans making the most of the extra year of eligibility due to the 2020 COVID-shortened season. He’s hitting .448 with 26 RBIs and 30 runs scored. 

But beyond the numbers are the intangibles. Nasby said the Panthers “were lost a little bit” with Schaffitzel sidelined due to the injury. He wound up missing 12 games and the team went 6-6 without him.

Schaffitzel excels at the top of the Drury lineup. He’s walked 24 times and his on-base percentage is a team-best .561 after reaching three times in a Wednesday loss to Missouri Southern.

“That’s always been my thing,” Schaffitzel said of his sharp eye of the strike zone. “A walk is getting on base. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve hit at the top of the lineup. With some really good hitters behind me, my goal is to let them drive me in.

“Understanding your role is how our program approaches things and how I approach things.”

Brant Schaffitzel plans to teach and assist his dad in the Hillcrest High School baseball program next school year. (Photo: Drury University)

Playing for Panthers a dream come true

Schaffitzel said he always wanted to play at Drury, growing up around the program as a fan and going to baseball camps run by Nasby and former Panthers coach Mark Stratton. He turned down opportunities to go away for college, opting to walk-on at Drury.

“It was my dream to be here, stay in my hometown and play,” he said. “Drury was where I wanted to be. When I was given the opportunity to walk-on, I knew it was going to be a fight for playing time, but this is where I wanted to be and wanted to win games.”

Younger brother Brock also is on the team in what definitely is a baseball family. Their dad, Ryan Schiffitzel, is the head coach at Hillcrest and Brant already is scheduled to teach at Hillcrest and assist his dad next season.

“My dad is a coach and teacher and my mom (Terri) is a teacher,” he said. “I’ve wanted to go into coaching since I was little. It’s something I’ve dreamed of and that’s what I’ll be doing next year.

“Hopefully I can go back and help get the tradition rolling again and back to where it used to be.”

Nasby said Schaffitzel is going to be a natural in his future as a coach.

“He’s going to be great,” Nasby said. “He’s going to have a bright future in coaching.” 

But first is what Schaffitzel hopes is a long run through the spring, deep into the D-II postseason. While the ankle “is painful at times,” he is diligent about letting the athletic training staff keep him as healthy as possible.

“I get treatment every day and wrap it as tight as I can, take some ibuprofen and go out there and try to win ballgames,” he said, noting that he’s tried to turn some physical limitations into positives.

“It’s made me focus on simplifying,” Schaffitzel said. “I can’t do as much on my ankle as I used to, so I try to keep it simple, try to get base hits up the middle and do what I can on the basepaths.”

The Brant Schaffitzel file

Year: Graduate student

Position: Infield/Outfield

Hometown: Springfield (Hillcrest High School)

College major: Secondary Education

Drury career by the numbers:

2022

Hitting .452 in 30 games with a team-leading .560 on-base percentage. Missed 12 games early in the season with a broken ankle. Has 38 hits and 22 walks with 28 runs scored in only 84 at-bats. 

2021

Led the team in walks with 30 which allowed him to hold an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .794. Saw time in the OF, 3B, 2B, 1B, and DH and was a true utility man. Of his season total 34 hits, 6 came for extras while picking up 24 RBIs.

2020

In the 13-7 COVID-shortened season, he hit .340 with team-leading .554 on-base percentage. He was perfect on the bases with 5-5 SB’s had 9 RBIs.

2019

Schaffitzel led the Panthers with 42 walks and recorded a career-high four hits vs. William Jewell. Started 41 of the 46 games he playedand had 34 hits, 33 runs, 18 RBIs.

2018

Named second-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference as a freshman he led the GLVC and set a program record with a .545 on base percentage and shattered a team record with 49 walks (the previous mark was 32). Finished fifth in the GLVC with a .366 batting average and led the Panthers with 42 runs scored and 12 doubles.

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, co-hosts The Sports Reporters on Jock 96.9 FM, 99.9 FM and 1060 AM on Monday mornings with Ned Reynolds and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at Lscranton755@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton