Jason Gasser was getting nervous. Real nervous. So, too, were his mother and father.

The high school baseball season was nearing an end and Gasser, a major contributor to Mount Carmel’s run to the Class 4A state championship, had yet to be offered a college scholarship.

His prospects of playing Division I baseball were slipping away by the day.

“I thought I was going to have to walk-on somewhere or go to a junior college,” said Gasser, a Dyer, Ind., resident. “I was getting worried, and so were my parents. But I had a feeling it would all work out.”

It did.

Northern Illinois, coached by Thornton graduate Ed Mathey, scouted Gasser during the Caravan’s playoff run and eventually offered him a scholarship.

In June, mind you, weeks after Gasser had graduated and just a few months before college classes begin.

“What really sold me and my parents were the academics at Northern,” Gasser said. “I want to major in business, and they have an excellent business school. I really like coach Mathey. He loves to win.”

Gasser’s teammate, Beau Filkins, was in a similar predicament. Filkins, too, was without a scholarship offer as the playoffs started. Without any options, he was set on following in the footsteps of his father, Randy, and brother, Casey, and attend Cal-State Stanislaus, a Division II program.

However, Western Michigan was scouting Mount Carmel’s sectional semifinal against Lyons, a game in which Filkins homered off prize pitching prospect Keith Lehmann, a Michigan recruit. Mount Carmel won 5-3.

A few days later, Western Michigan offered Filkins a scholarship.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

“I thought to play Division I, at best, I was going to have to go somewhere and be a preferred walk-on,” said Filkins, a Beverly community resident. “Me and my family believed I had the talent to play at the Division I level. I didn’t want to play for a small college in the Midwest. So I was probably going to attend Cal State Stanislaus. But then Western Michigan made an offer. I visited and really liked the facilities and the coaching staff. It’s not too far, but far enough away from home.”

The point here, moms and dads, is that it’s never too late in the recruiting game to earn a scholarship.

Things happen. Sometimes it’s by design; some college programs set aside scholarship money for instances such as Gasser’s. Or sometimes it’s a stroke of fate. Northern Illinois junior first baseman Jeff Zimmerman, an Andrew grad, was selected by Seattle in the major league draft earlier in the month and soon thereafter signed a pro contract. His departure opened additional scholarship money for Mathey to spend if he desired.

“Things happen,” Mathey said. “We like to save some money for the spring period, just in case we see a (high school) player we like and then we can offer him a scholarship. There are a lot of late-bloomers in the Chicago area, guys who develop from their junior to senior seasons. We feel it’s wise to have some scholarship money available.

“There’s also kids who decide, after a year or two, they don’t want to play college baseball anymore and give up the game, which opens up some money. It’s not something that happens all the time. But it does happen.”

Coincidentally, Gasser and Filkins were the Caravan’s top two hitters, the only starters to boast batting averages above .400. Each earned a SouthtownStar All-Area nod, the two Caravan position players to be so honored.

Each is a slick fielder, too. I watched Gasser chase many balls down in the gaps, turning would-be extra base hits into routine outs. Gasser also was a receiver on Mount Carmel’s Class 8A state championship team in the fall, putting him in the rarefied air of two-time state champion in the same school year. The young man is a winner.

Filkins, who sparkled all season long at the hot corner, can play multiple positions, including the outfield, and play all at a high level. The kid’s a gamer, always willing to get his uniform dirty.

Yet, neither had a scholarship offer till the ninth inning of the recruiting process.

That there was any scholarship money available came as a surprise to both players.

“I didn’t think any program had scholarship money left,” Gasser said.

I don’t envy families of student-athletes. The rising cost of college tuition has made it unaffordable for most families.

But the opportunity to alleviate some of that financial responsibility by way of an athletic scholarship can arrive at any time.

Just ask Gasser and Filkins.