The season is on the line for Santa Monica High School’s baseball team.
It’s late May, and the Vikings are locked in a tie with Irvine-Northwood in the bottom of the ninth inning of a CIF Southern Section playoff game.
Samohi catcher Matthew Kassowitz gets the rally started with a double, and third baseman Rudy Olmedo keeps it going with a walk. That’s when Lowell Schipper calmly steps to the plate.
“It’s a game of failure, and that excites me,” said Schipper, who ripped a single to the outfield in an eventual 3-1 win for the Vikings. “Who can fail the least amount of times? The best hitters are hitting three out of 10 times they’re at the plate. They’re failing, but they’re succeeding.
“And it’s such a mental game. You have to be in the right state of mind to be 0-for-3 and then come up a fourth time and hit in the bottom of the ninth. You’re at the plate, and the whole game rides on your shoulders. I love the pressure.”
There’s plenty more pressure now in store for Schipper, who signed this month to continue his baseball career at the University of Richmond.
The infielder and right-handed pitcher was recruited by Amherst, Dayton, Denison, Rhodes and Santa Clara as well as Harvard and Columbia, but he said he felt a connection to the Virginia school the moment he stepped on campus. He verbally committed to Richmond months ago.
“Signing was a big step,” Schipper said. “Going through this, I never thought it was going to happen. … Once it’s official, it’s a really good feeling. It’s always been my dream to play professional baseball, and to know you’re going to play Division I baseball feels like the perfect next step.”
The thought of swinging a bat in the collegiate ranks might have seemed odd to a younger Schipper, a graduate of Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools who played extensively on a traveling team in the Los Angeles Jr. Kings Hockey Club. But injuries convinced him to change course.
“It wasn’t worth it anymore,” he said.
So Schipper turned his attention to baseball, which he had also been playing throughout his childhood. As an eighth-grader he started working with hitting coach Ernie Barron, whom he credits for his progress over the last four years.
Schipper hopes to continue developing at Richmond, which last year went 28-25 overall and tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 15-9 mark under coach Tracy Woodson.
The Spiders last season qualified for their league tournament for the fifth-straight time, but Schipper will try to help them in their quest for further postseason success. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, and they’ve never been to the College World Series.
Schipper, who plans to study business and film, said he’s looking forward to the challenge of adjusting to the speed of the college game.
“Everyone’s throwing 90 [mph],” he said. “You’ve gotta be able to hit it and compete with it. You’re not going to get up there where they have a starter throwing gas and another guy throwing 80. Every person who comes in is really good. You’ve got to be able to focus and get your timing down and not get down on yourself.”