STEPHENS CITY – Hunter Entsminger wanted to settle on his college destination as soon as possible, provided he could find the right fit for the next stop in his baseball career. He’s found that fit before his junior year at Sherando High School could come to a close.
Entsminger announced via social media on Sunday that he’ll play baseball for James Madison University in 2019-20. Citing the Dukes’ coaching staff and his appreciation for Harrisonburg, Entsminger on Tuesday called JMU a “great fit” and said his verbal commitment allows him to “just play baseball.”
“It’s just a big weight off my shoulders,” Entsminger said. “I mean I don’t have to worry. I can just go out and play baseball, don’t have to impress anybody, don’t have to impress the coach. Now it’s just going out and playing baseball and having fun with it.”
Entsminger, a two-sport standout, has been one of Sherando’s top pitchers over the past two seasons and is the Warriors’ starting catcher and occasional outfielder when he’s not on the mound. The right-hander will pitch for the Dukes when he arrives at JMU in 2019, he said.
The junior said his first interaction with JMU’s coaching staff came when he pitched at a camp at the school last summer. Entsminger, who also considered Radford, Liberty and West Virginia, said he received his only baseball scholarship offer to date from JMU but declined to give specifics of the offer.
On his decision to choose JMU, Entsminger pointed to Dukes head coach Marlin Ikenberry, who is in his third season after spending the previous 10 years as the head coach at Virginia Military Institute. Ikenberry led JMU to 24 wins in each of his first two seasons in 2016 and 2017. The Dukes were 21-23 (6-12 in the Colonial Athletic Association) this season entering Tuesday’s game at North Carolina State.
“I like to think he’s like my dad,” Entsminger said of Ikenberry. “He keeps it straight with you. He’s not gonna beat around the bush or anything. I mean that’s the type of guy I look for. I like how they’re starting a winning tradition there, and I really just look forward to going down there and playing winning baseball.”
Entsminger, a three-year starter for Sherando, is 3-1 on the mound this spring and boasts a 1.91 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings pitched. He was 5-1 with a 0.20 ERA and three saves in 34 2/3 innings in 2017.
Pepper Martin, Sherando’s longtime baseball coach, said he’s had multiple conversations with JMU pitching coach Jimmy Jackson concerning Entsminger since last June, adding that the Dukes’ coaching staff was “really high” on the Sherando junior.
Martin said JMU coaches were in attendance when Entsminger tossed a one-hit, 11-strikeout gem in a 3-0 win over James Wood on May 1 and clocked the right-hander’s fastball at 90 mph. Entsminger gave his verbal commitment to the Dukes five days later.
“He has added a little velocity,” Martin said of the strides Entsminger has made on the mound between his sophomore and junior seasons, “but I think what’s even more important, and what (Sherando assistant coach Craig) Bodenschatz worked a lot with him on, (is) not just developing his other pitches but having the confidence to throw those pitches in any count has made him that much more effective.”
While Entsminger’s commitment has relieved the junior from the pressure of performing for college scouts, he said he now has to go about closing out his high school career under a new set of expectations.
“I don’t really like lifting and all that, but now I’ve gotta go out there, I’ve gotta work as hard as anybody,” Entsminger said. “… Now the work really begins because I know what I’m doing. So really I’m just gonna go out there and train, work as hard as I can and just be completely dialed into baseball.”
Entsminger, the grandson of former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, also has been the starting quarterback for Sherando’s football team the past two seasons. He threw for 2,736 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2017, leading the Warriors to the VHSL Class 4 state semifinals and earning second team all-state recognition.
“Ever since I was little I wanted to play Division I baseball,” Entsminger said. “It’s been a dream of mine. I mean, football came up here and there but my mind’s always been on baseball and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”