CARY, N.C. -- Lord, Mama Gene would’ve loved this.

It’s been an emotional past few weeks for Tampa third baseman Jake Schrader, whose maternal grandmother, Imogene Jones, passed away on May 13. On the day before her funeral, Schrader tagged a couple of home runs to help clinch Tampa’s trip to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship final round.

Here in Cary, he kept right on hitting en route to being Most Outstanding Player of the DII national finals. Schrader went 8-for-18 at the plate, with two more round-trippers and six RBIs.

Schrader’s double over the head of Minnesota State-Mankato center fielder Parker Sullivan scored teammate Sean O’Brien to start a five-run barrage in the second inning. The Spartans never looked back en route to an 8-2 victory that gave them the sixth national championship in school history, and the third under head coach Joe Urso.

When asked about Mama Gene in the postgame news conference, Schrader broke down.

"She would’ve been proud,” he said. “She just enjoyed watching me play.”

Life was an adventure even before Schrader was born. His mom, Laura, fell down a flight of stairs while she was pregnant with him. Then, he endured an incredible 12 different surgeries due to a bout with meconium aspiration syndrome as an infant.

There’s more. He also had a bacterial infection known as pseudomonas. Finally, at age 4, he was sick with Lyme disease that took some 14 months to get past.

“While we were in the hospital, we’d toss a ball,” Laura said. “Any doctor that came in to see him, if they’d pitch him a ball, he’d hit it and get up on the bed and let them look at him.”

It wasn’t long, however, before he was desperately wanting to play T-ball with his older brother.

He would stand at the fence and just cry and beg to play,” Laura continued. “They felt so sorry for him, they put him in. He ended up playing with the big boys and was better than anybody he played with.”

The whole time Laura talked, there were fireworks going off in the background. Her son’s team was celebrating its championship, with him right in the center of it all.

This was a special night, for many more reasons than just taking home a trophy.

This was for Laura’s mother, Mama Gene.

“She’d be hollering louder than anybody here, and she’d say, ‘God bless him,’ ” Laura said. “She’d have wanted a home run in this last game, though. I can tell you that.”