WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University’s baseball team will be without one of its key pieces when it opens the 2020 season on Sunday in a home doubleheader against Misericordia.
Senior right-hander Gerard DePhillips, who led Division III in saves last season, is recovering from a shoulder injury, according to head coach Kevin Anderson, and won’t be available for the Hornets.
“He’s coming off of a shoulder injury and we’re gonna take that very slow,” Anderson said. “Until we get him back, we’ll close by committee.”
Anderson didn’t rule out DePhillips not taking the mound at all in 2020, noting that Shenandoah and its star closer have until March 7 -- the end of the first third of the season -- to decide whether to apply for a medical redshirt.
“He’s working with our trainers every day. We’re looking at the big picture,” Anderson said, adding that DePhillips wouldn’t be able to play past March 7 to be eligible for a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. “I don’t want to say we’re under the gun but we’ll do what Gerard wants to do.”
DePhillips, a Florham Park, New Jersey native, began his Shenandoah career as a starting pitcher and was effective in a midweek role through his first two seasons with the Hornets, going 13-2 in 18 starts in that span.
Injuries and other circumstances opened a need at the back end of Shenandoah’s bullpen in 2019, and DePhillips stepped in as the Hornets’ closer and finished the year with 13 saves while posting a 2.59 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 31⅓ innings.
DePhillips set the ODAC record for saves in a single season and had eight more than any other pitcher in the conference last year.
Should DePhillips return to the mound at some point this spring, he said he won’t feel any pressure to follow-up on his stellar 2019 season.
“I don’t think about it. I just kind of take it one game at a time and don’t look at the numbers, don’t look at the stats,” DePhillips said. “Me and (Shenandoah’s All-American slugger Keegan Woolford) talk about it, how we don’t look at our awards or anything, we just kind of play ball and we’ll collect them at the end of the year, if we’re lucky enough to get them.”
LOCAL FLAVOR: With 11 players on the roster from Frederick County, Shenandoah’s lineup could at times this season feature plenty of local talent.
Former Sherando standouts Frankie Ritter and Pearce Bucher, two sophomores who play shortstop and third base, respectively, figure to see plenty of playing time on the left side of SU’s infield as everyday starters this spring. Anderson added that another former Warrior, sophomore left-hander Tad Dean, is being groomed as a starting pitcher this spring after seeing sparse action out of the bullpen last season and could factor in the Hornets’ rotation this year.
Freshmen Haden Madagan (Winchester, Millbrook High School), Kooper Anderson (Clear Brook, Mountain View Christian Academy) and Jack Duvall (Stephens City, Sherando) also could see time split between Shenandoah’s varsity and developmental squads, Kevin Anderson said.
Anderson noted that Madagan, who is listed as a pitcher and an outfielder, has had “an outstanding year for us. He’s going to be an exceptional two-way guy for us.”
Ritter established himself as a big piece of SU’s future last season when he worked himself into a starting role at third base during the second half of the season and batted .336 at the top of the lineup with 14 RBIs and 37 runs scored in 35 games (29 starts).
Bucher appeared in 17 games in 2019 -- including 10 starts -- and batted .261 with four RBIs. Anderson mentioned Bucher among a list of players that coaches hope can produce a handful of home runs apiece to add some complementary power to Woolford’s big bat.
HIGH PRAISE: Anderson consistently praises all of his teams for their work off of the baseball diamond year after year, and this season’s squad wasn’t spared its coach’s praise as he addressed the outlook of the 2020 Hornets.
“We have outstanding senior leadership,” Anderson said last week. “We have 13 seniors. Keegan Woolford and Gerard DePhillips were unanimous picks for captains. The way we organize, we really turn things over to the senior class to carry on the tradition. And again, 13 young men have stepped up. Very, very impressed with their leadership.”
Anderson added that 29 players are Dean’s List students, and the team’s collective GPA is a 3.28.
“As a coach, I can’t ask more from these young men than what they’re doing community service-wise, academically,” Anderson said. “We’re very blessed to have outstanding guys in our program.”