WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University’s baseball team begins the proverbial second season this weekend with Saturday’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference doubleheader against Emory & Henry, and head coach Kevin Anderson said he’s “anxious to see how it plays out” after the Hornets’ 7-1 start to 2020.
Shenandoah’s start has included three games against two teams who reached the NCAA Division III playoffs last season, with the Hornets sweeping a season-opening doubleheader against Misericordia with a pair of one-run victories on Feb. 16 and beating Susquehanna, 12-5, on Feb. 23.
Most recently, SU split a double-dip against Immaculata at home on Sunday, topping the Mighty Macs 14-13 with Frankie Ritter’s walk-off RBI bunt on a suicide squeeze in the 12th inning in Game 1 before falling, 9-1, in the second game, the Hornets first loss of the season.
“We’ve probably won a couple games that we shouldn’t have,” Anderson said on Monday. “We have had some late-inning heroics. At times we’ve pitched well, at times we’ve hit well, we’ve fielded well. I think we’re a very good team when we put all three phases together. We do like the closeness of this group, the team unity. We have a lot of guys of high-quality character. We have a competition for spots, which is always healthy. Guys are pulling for each other.”
Entering Monday, Shenandoah, which has played the fewest games of any other team in the conference, led the ODAC in team batting average (.331), with senior first baseman Keegan Woolford (13-for-26, four home runs, 13 RBIs) and senior outfielder Grant Thompson (13-for-31, six RBIs) each hitting better than .400 through the season’s first two weeks.
Woolford has been the Hornets’ only source of power to this point -- he’s got all four of SU’s homers -- but Shenandoah still entered the week with the ODAC’s highest slugging percentage (.469) and is averaging 7.8 runs per game while getting early run production from first-year starting infielders Anthony Ward (nine RBIs) and Pearce Bucher (six RBIs).
On the mound, Shenandoah has posted a collective 5.51 ERA, the second-worst mark in the ODAC at the start of the week. Sophomore left-hander Michael Prosperi has yet to allow a run in seven innings of work, which included a five-inning start in a win over Widener two weekends ago. Fellow sophomore Tad Dean, another lefty who played for SU’s developmental squad last season, is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 11⅓ innings spanning three appearances, including one start.
“We’re playing a lot of guys and we’re pitching a lot of guys. We’re pitching more by committee this year than we ever have,” said Anderson, who added that the Hornets got a “big shot in the arm” with the return of senior right-hander C.J. Morton, who made his return from surgery and struck out five in two innings of relief in Sunday’s Game 1.
BACK IN ACTION: Shenandoah figures to add another arm back to its pitching staff this week with the return of senior closer Gerard DePhillips.
The right-hander, who led the nation in saves last season, has been working his way back from a shoulder injury that left Anderson in the preseason to question DePhillips’ availability in 2020. Anderson on Monday said that the plan was to get DePhillips an inning of work in Tuesday’s home game against Dickinson.
Anderson added that SU has until March 7 to decide whether to shut down DePhillips for the season and pursue a medical redshirt.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” Anderson said. “He and (pitching coach Rick) Croushore have really bonded, have a great relationship. He’s had bullpens. He’s thrown an intrasquad. We’re gonna see what happens.”
COACHING MILESTONE: Shenandoah’s 14-13 win over Immaculata was the 650th of Anderson’s 21 seasons as a college head coach.
Anderson, who won nearly 150 games in four seasons with James Madison University from 1994-97, has 503 career wins in 17 seasons at Shenandoah and is 650-302-2 overall as a college head coach.