Auxiliary Nines: Stieg, Shepard Lead NOVA’s Freshmen Nine

June 22 - Griffin Stieg and A.J. Shepard don’t look like high school freshmen, and they didn’t play like first-year prep players this spring either.

McLean’s Stieg and Osbourn Park’s Shepard lead our 2019 Freshman Nine after settling into the middle of the order for their respective clubs and earning first-team All-Region 6D honors.

Stieg, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder who committed to Virginia Tech, hit .439 with and was among the area’s leaders with 36 hits while helping the Highlanders win the Liberty District championship. Shepard, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound catcher who committed over the winter to play at Indiana, hit .473 with five home runs and 22 RBI - two of those homers coming in the Yellow Jackets’ regional game against Yorktown.

Joining Stieg and Shepard are Stafford pitcher Gunther Braendel, whose relief work in the Class 5 state semifinals helped propel the Indians to the state title, as well as Colgan shortstop Brandon Cassedy, Potomac outfielder Matt Drumgold, Paul VI Catholic left-hander Bradley Gagen and shortstop Aidan McDonald, and Patriot first baseman Eli Serrano and outfielder Kyle Vandenburg.

The magazine’s Auxiliary Nines are part of our NOVA Nine Team series honoring the top players from Northern Virginia. The series is sponsored by The St. James in Springfield.

Here’s a look at this year’s selections:

Gunther Braendel, Stafford - The right-hander took advantage of his opportunities on a deep pitching staff, going 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 22.1 innings over his five appearances (three starts) as the Indians swept their way to Commonwealth District, Region 5D and Class 5 state championships.

Brandon Cassedy, Colgan - A first-team All-Cardinal District selection, the shortstop hit .344 with 21 hits and 11 RBI and committed just six errors this spring for the Sharks.

Matt Drumgold, Potomac - A second-team All-Cardinal District selection, the outfielder hit .333 with 19 hits, five doubles, 18 RBI and eight steals as the Panthers won the district championship.

Bradley Gagen, Paul VI Catholic - The left-hander posted an impressive rookie campaign, going 3-2 with a save, a 2.33 ERA and 38 strikeouts to 14 walks in 30 innings over his nine appearances. Has committed to pitch at the University of Virginia.

Aidan McDonald, Paul VI Catholic - Was inserted as the Panthers’ starting shortstop and responded with an impressive first prep season, hitting .329 with 28 hits, eight doubles, 11 RBI and eight steals.

Eli Serrano, Patriot - A second-team All-Cedar Run District pick, the left-handed swinging first baseman hit .355 with 22 hits, six doubles, 16 RBI and had a .526 on-base percentage.

A.J. Shepard, Osbourn Park - A first-team All-Cedar Run District and first-team All-Region 6D selection, the catcher hit .473 with 26 hits, five home runs and 22 RBI and had 24 stolen bases. Has committed to play at Indiana University.

Griffin Stieg, McLean - A first-team All-Liberty District and first-team All-Region 6D pick, the outfielder hit .439 with 36 hits - 10 that went for extra bases - and 17 RBI as the Highlanders won the district title. Has committed to play at Virginia Tech.

Kyle Vandenburg, Patriot - A first-team All-Cedar Run District and second-team All-Region 6D selection, the outfielder hit .357 with a .457 on-base percentage, 20 hits - seven that went for extra bases - and 18 RBI.

Sponsor: This year’s NOVA Nine Team and Auxiliary Nines are sponsored by The St. James Sports, Wellness and Entertainment Complex in Springfield. For more information, visit

Photo of McLean’s Griffin Stieg by Julia McElligott