2017 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame Class: Kristin Schmidt
It was just one very long day at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City in 2004 that Kristin Schmidt will always be remembered for, although it was part of an outstanding softball pitching career at LSU.
She will forever be known as an MVP of a WCWS, although her team didn’t make Championship Monday. Beginning this Friday night, she will forever be known as a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Both are “stunning” in her mind.
“I was shocked, honestly,” Schmidt said recently about the Hall induction. “Joe Alleva called while I was at work, and it caught me completely off guard. I was so touched that the selection committee felt my career warranted the honor. Especially now since it has been 13 years since I finished playing. I also realized this year that there are freshmen on the team that were probably born while I was in college already.”
But it was pretty stunning to win an MVP honor and you aren’t even in town for the title game the next night.
“Much like the Hall of Fame I remember thinking – Seriously? It was shocking to me that someone from the championship wasn’t given the award,” said Schmidt. “I know most people were shocked at the number of pitches I threw, but it didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Growing up during tournament ball we played until we lost, so that meant I pitched until we lost – and you didn’t want to go home.”
And that, my friends, is how the legend of Kristin Schmidt came to be. A player who didn’t want to go home from Oklahoma City and see LSU’s season and her career end.
Schmidt was the lead pitcher on the team, but a freshman named Emily Turner, who would have her moments in the future years in her career, was helping LSU have an outstanding season under Coach Yvette Girouard.
The Tigers won the Western Division and the regular season championship in 2004 and then went to of all places, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and took the SEC Tournament title. The MVP was Schmidt, who earned a win and a save on championship Sunday as LSU defeated Auburn 1-0 and then Georgia 4-1 in the championship game.
It was the start of Schmidt’s magical 2004 postseason run, proving a decision to come to LSU was a positive one.
“I remember being very nervous when I came to LSU,” she recalled. “I really wanted LSU to “work out” for me. I went to Notre Dame my freshman year and the school and athletics just were not a good fit. I wanted to play college ball, but knew this was it because I could not transfer schools again. I do know that LSU felt like home. People in general were just nice people, which is such a southern thing and being from Texas was something I was used to.
“Playing softball at LSU turned out to be the experience I thought I was going to have in college and I didn’t have anything to be nervous about. I am still close friends with girls that I played with – but I do wish we would see each other more often. With everyone spread out in different states it is hard. I love Coach Girouard like a parent, and just like a parent you may not always see eye-to-eye but you know they care about you and want what is best for you. I feel like Coach G helped make me a tougher, better person and I thank her for it. I have caught myself telling someone to ‘leave it better than you found it’ which totally came from Coach G.”
Coach Girouard also had a couple of other lines that Schmidt reminded me of. After the SEC Tournament, the team was sent to Baylor, where Schmidt would pick up four complete-game victories and the MVP titles after the Tigers won 4-1 over Illinois to advance back to the WCWS.
“I told the girls before we left Baton Rouge that we are busing straight to Oklahoma, so pack your bags until the end of the College World Series because we are not coming back,” Girouard said at the time.
Little did she know what was ahead for the Tigers. First was a 3-2 extra-inning opening round win for LSU over Michigan. The Tigers needed a two-out error in the 12th to eventually tie the game and then two errors on one play that brought home the winning run in the 13th.
LSU would lose to UCLA in Friday’s second round, setting up where LSU would need a win Saturday night over Florida State and then two wins on Sunday over California. A very doable postseason thing and Schmidt was more than ready.
But Saturday evening the weather turned awful and we were soon heading back to the hotel with a schedule to be determined. Soon it became obvious that LSU would have to win three games Sunday to advance to the winner-take-all championship game on Monday night.
It seemed rather unfair when there was plenty of time before a 7 p.m. finale that the third game could have been played Monday morning. But tournament officials were selling “protection of the bracket” and so that was how it was going to play out.
“I think had we been able to play the initial losers’ bracket game against Florida State as scheduled and then only have to play a doubleheader against Cal Berkeley, I like our chances a lot,” Schmidt recalled. “I do think the adversity presented in the three games in a day really gave us something to rally around though. Coach G told us when we left that morning that we weren’t coming back until they turned the lights off.”
LSU did what it needed to do, beating Florida State, 2-1. Then the Tigers and Schmidt defeated California, 4-1. There was a rare “if necessary” game about to be played for the right to go to the Monday night finale.
It marked just the seventh time as of 2004 that the “if necessary” had to be played in that format and LSU was the first school east of the Mississippi River to be within one game of the National
Championship game since 1984.
LSU had a 1-0 lead in the “if necessary” game and just nine outs away from the championship. Finally, the Bears got to Schmidt with a couple of hits, two walks and a pair of singles that plated four runs.
“We just came up a bit short,” Schmidt said. “We faced adversity and challenges the entire season that only made us play better.”
In all Schmidt, who now lives in Houston with her husband, Dean Duplantis, and two dogs, threw 349 pitches on that one day and over 600 pitches on the weekend before she was pulled in the final inning by Coach Girouard as the OKC crowd gave her a long, loud and well-deserved standing ovation.
For her career, the three-time All-American finished as one of only 14 players in softball at that time to have recorded both 1,000 career strikeouts and 100 victories. Her 1,154 strikeouts ranked 13th all-time after 2004 in NCAA history, while her 116 wins tied her for ninth all-time through 2004. She had 38 wins in her final season.
One historic day of pitching for Kristin Schmidt. One day that will always be remembered at LSU, but truly just one day that represented a Hall of Fame pitching career in the sport of softball.
Editor’s Note: LSU softball pitcher Kristin Schmidt, the MVP of the 2004 Women’s College World Series, is a member of the 2017 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame induction class and will be formally enshrined on Friday in the L’Auberge Baton Rouge Events Center. The other inductees are women’s basketball player Joyce Walker, men’s basketball player Collis Temple Jr., diver Alison Maisch, sprinter Debbie Parris-Thymes and pole vaulter Russ Buller.
Tickets are on sale now for the event, which begins with a cocktail reception featuring heavy hors d’ouerves from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony at 7:45 p.m. Tickets for the event are available for $50 each. Tickets may be purchased by contacting Courtney Albritton of the Tiger Athletic Foundation at (225) 578-0159 or [email protected]
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