Max Scheps is used to being put into tough situations and coming up big.
As a sophomore, Scheps was largely a pinch-hitter for Class LL champion Amity. Coming off the bench cold, he ripped 10 hits in his first 11 at-bats.
He started his junior season as a third baseman but quickly was thrust into the No. 2 spot in the pitching rotation behind Fairfield-bound senior ace Eli Oliphant. All Scheps did was go 10-0 with a miniscule 0.59 ERA and help the Spartans to an unprecedented fourth straight state title.
And as a senior this past spring, Scheps took over for Oliphant as Amity’s ace and responded to the pressure, going 9-2 with a 1.02 ERA while also hitting .417 with four homers and 37 RBIs.
On a team (and in an area) full of stars, Scheps shined as bright as any and has been named the New Haven Register Area MVP for 2017.
“It’s a great honor,” said Scheps. “I owe it to my coaches, really, and my team for helping me. Without them, without my defense out there, I wouldn’t have the ERA I have. They picked me up so many times. The coaches have always been there. It’s amazing to win this honor.”
Of course, Scheps is about to jump into his toughest situation yet. He has committed to play baseball at Army, and headed down to West Point this week to begin six weeks of basic training. While most of his classmates will be enjoying their final summer before college on the beach or even the ballfield, Scheps will be converting from civilian to military life.
“It’ll be tough — a lot of running, and you’re in the heat with 30 pounds on your back, in full uniform,” he noted. “But, once you get through it, you change from regular civilian life.”
And Scheps wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, he’s following in the footsteps of his mother, Elizabeth, a native of Peru who served in counter narcotics in the Peruvian army.
“I kind of felt like I wanted to be in the military, too,” he said.
Scheps was looking for a ROTC program when he started emailing college baseball coaches last summer. He looked at schools like Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Babson and Franklin Pierce, and developed a good rapport with Jayson King, Franklin Pierce’s longtime head coach.
When King left to take over as associate head coach at Army in July, Scheps decided to head to West Point, as well.
“I couldn’t pass up the offer,” he said.
Scheps will continue his baseball career as a pitcher and maybe play a bit of third base, as well. For all the success he had at Amity (19-2 as a starting pitcher, three state titles), his career ended in disappointment when the top-seeded Spartans were upset by No. 11 Staples in the Class LL championship game. The loss ended Amity’s state title streak at four.
“It hurt at first, but I realized I had a great four years at Amity,” said Scheps. “I enjoyed every time I was on the baseball field. I couldn’t just have one game over-trump everything else. I love my players, I love my teammates. It just helped to know they’re all having great futures. I’m just looking forward to going to college.”
Scheps will be one of several local baseball players heading to West Point. Fairfield Prep’s Karl Johnson and Danbury’s Mike Halas will also play at Army next season. Cheshire junior Ben DeLaubell will join them the following year.
Scheps, who will study civil engineering at West Point with plans on getting into the Army Corps of Engineers, will adhere to the military’s strict training guidelines. In mid-August, he and his fellow trainees will engage in Reception Day — a 10-mile hike from Camp Buckner to West Point. He’ll then head back to home in Orange for 72 hours, then turn right back around and begin his college career.
Scheps will receive four years of free tuition, but also have a five-year commitment to serve after graduation. He’ll be heading out into a volatile world, but he’ll be ready.
“Wherever they need me, I’ll go,” said Scheps.
Just another tough situation where Max Scheps will undoubtedly come up big once again.