February 27 - A.J. Shepard earlier this month became Osbourn Park’s second freshman catcher to commit to a Division I program before stepping on a high school field, announcing his intention to play at Indiana University.
The 6-foot, 175-pound backstop is part of the Yellow Jackets’ talented first-year tandem behind the plate, where he’ll compete for playing time with University of Virginia recruit Mason Balsis. Shepard is also listed as a corner infielder and outfielder.
He will become the first player from Virginia to suit up for the Hoosiers since Chris Behrens, a 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher from Brooke Point who pitched at Indiana from 2001-04. Brad Edwards, a first-team All-Met selection as a senior at C.D. Hylton in 1998, pitched for three seasons with the Hoosiers prior to being drafted in the 16th round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.
As a member of the EvoShield Canes 2022 national team last year, Shepard hit .318 with 21 RBI in 31 games at Perfect Game events. He was 7-for-14 with five RBI to help the Canes win the WWBA 14U National Championship in Georgia in June, and went 8-for-15 with five doubles and 10 RBI over six games as they advanced to the semifinals of the Freshman World Championship in Florida in October.
Patriot’s Eikhoff, Briar Woods’ Cmeyla Shine at PBR’s Preseason All-State Showcase
Two of the area’s top juniors, Patriot shortstop and right-hander Riley Eikhoff and Briar Woods catcher Nathan Cmeyla, were among the top performers at Prep Baseball Report’s Preseason All-State Showcase earlier this month. The event was held over two sessions in Henrico and Ruther Glen.
Eikhoff, who has committed to the University of Virginia and is currently ranked No. 5 by PBR among the state’s Class of 2020 players, had his fastball reach 89 MPH and recorded a velocity of 85 MPH while throwing across the infield. The uncommitted Cmeyla, meanwhile, turned in the fifth-best pop time among catchers who attended the two sessions. His top time was recorded at 1.99.
Over 100 players participated in the showcase, which was attended by PBR and Major League Baseball scouts.
NCAA’s Recruiting Contact Period Begins on Friday
The five-month contact period for Division I and Division II coaches to contact high school underclassmen begins on Friday. College coaches have been under a quiet period since Nov. 16 - with a dead period from Jan. 3-6 - per the NCAA’s 2018-19 recruiting calendar.
During the contact period, Division I and Division II coaches can have “face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, watch student-athletes compete and visit their high schools, and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents,” the NCAA states on its website.
A contact occurs anytime a college coach says more than “hello” while off the college’s campus. High school baseball players are able to take official visits to college campuses beginning on Sept. 1 of their junior year.
The contact period will run through July 31. The NCAA’s recruiting calendar does not apply to Division III coaches, who are not permitted to offer athletic scholarships.
Photo of A.J. Shepard courtesy of EvoShield Canes