By David Cohn
Of all of the players who have contributed to the Stanford softball program over the last two years, seemingly no one has been more valuable to the team than sophomore pitcher Madi Schreyer. Since she came to the Farm in 2013, Schreyer has had anything but an ordinary journey as an athlete, as she has been called upon to lead the Cardinal pitching rotation almost since her first game in a Cardinal red and white uniform — the transfer of Kelsey Stevens, the health of Nyree White and the injury and subsequent transfer of Carley Hoover left Schreyer as the only healthy pitcher for Stanford during much of the 2014 season.
As such, in the face of the extraordinary burden of having to help hold a makeshift staff together while also facing the gauntlet of elite teams that make up the Pac-12 Conference, Schreyer delivered a series of heroic yet inconsistent performances as a freshman. However, Schreyer was certainly not deterred by the challenges of last season, as she has started her sophomore campaign by delivering a series of one outstanding performance after another.
In 37.1 innings this season, Schreyer has only allowed eight earned runs, while striking out 21 batters. In particular, Schreyer has been spectacular in preventing opponents from notching extra base hits; Schreyer has not allowed a single home run or triple, while giving up only four doubles to opposing hitters.
In recognition of Schreyer’s growth as a player in spite of the adversity that the Stanford pitching staff has faced over the last two years, fellow sophomore Kylie Sorenson said of Madi Schreyer at the end of last season, “She has grown a lot in the last couple of weeks and through Pac-12 play. It is really awesome to play behind someone who is continuously growing. It is a progression of her getting better every day.”
Schreyer’s trajectory as a pitcher for the Cardinal forever changed after last year’s Nike Invitational, when then-freshman and No.1 overall pitching recruit Hoover went down with what eventually became a season-ending pectoral injury in a matchup against Bradley. While Stanford had, to that point, been able to maintain its then-undefeated record after losing Stevens to a pre-season transfer to Oklahoma and White for medical reasons, the loss of Hoover would place a previously unseen amount of pressure on a player who was still adjusting to the college game herself. Now, Schreyer not only had to grow as an individual player but also become the sole leader of the Cardinal rotation.
In reflecting on this challenge, Schreyer told the Woodinville Weekly News this past summer, “I definitely wasn’t expecting it. Our other pitcher [Hoover] had an injury and so I had to take over. I took it on with no problem and bit the bullet. I knew my team was behind me the whole way. It definitely wasn’t smooth, but I was never shocked when I got there. It was definitely a learning experience, [having] to be strong both physically and mentally.”
Schreyer, along with the rest of the Stanford softball team, would certainly be tested physically and mentally by the strain of the 2014 season; after starting the season 13-0, Schreyer and the Cardinal simply wore down under the strain of the dilapidated pitching rotation, with the Card losing 25 of their last 42 games to miss the postseason for the first time since 1997. In an inhuman 242 ⅓ total innings in 2014, Schreyer posted a 3.70 ERA, with 171 strikeouts on 132 walks. While Schreyer certainly had some rough starts, particularly when she gave up 11 earned runs to Arizona State in a 16-15 loss to the Sun Devils in nine innings or when she allowed 12 earned runs to Arizona in an 18-12 defeat, Schreyer nevertheless had moments of remarkable brilliance, despite the draining nature of the innings and the losses.
In particular, in a start last season against No. 2 Tennessee as part of the 2014 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, Schreyer pitched a complete-game five-hitter against one of the best teams in the entire country. While the Cardinal would lose the game 3-1, Schreyer left her heart out on the field in her 124-pitch effort, striking out three batters, while forcing the Volunteers to go 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
After an offseason of change for the Stanford softball program, Schreyer came into the 2015 season as undisputed No. 1 starter with the transfer of Hoover to LSU. This season, Schreyer has also added the title of mentor to her long list of responsibilities, as the Card welcomed freshman pitcher Haley Snyder to the Farm to complement Schreyer’s abilities.
With the support of Snyder and new assistant Megan Langenfeld as part of first-year head coach Rachel Hanson’s staff, Schreyer has dominated just about every opponent that she has faced this season. In particular, in last week’s Mary Nutter Classic, the Woodinville, Washington native pitched a five-hit complete game shutout against Oklahoma State to give Stanford its only victory at the premier non-conference tournament in collegiate softball.
In fueling her fantastic start to the season, Schreyer has been great at inducing ground balls from opposing batters, posting a tremendous 10 ground balls per game on average. She has also dramatically cut down on her walk totals, as she has improved her strikeout-to-walk ratio to 1.6 in 11 games this year. While she continues to work on her fielding her position in order to help out her own cause, Schreyer’s performance has been one of the best stories in the first 17 games of the 2015 season.
In describing this whirlwind of a journey over the last year and a half, Schreyer told the Pac-12 Networks, “I definitely have had to grow up … I feel like being put in this position early on has definitely helped me grow as a player, a person and a teammate. It has been a struggle. I have had days that have been harder than others, but I know this is just making me stronger.”
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.