John Shields needs a title bigger than All-Star.
The Shelter Island Bucks outfielder, fresh off a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Home Run Derby win just hours prior, drove in two runs and scored the game-winner in his Red Team’s 4-3 win over Blue. He ended Saturday night seeing double, earning the MVP title following the July 13 defeat at Peconic’s Cochran Park.
“In all honesty, I’ve never taken part in a home run derby before, so I was shocked I was selected but very excited,” the Lipscomb University junior and Tampa native said. “I did not feel that I was completely deserving of the MVP award — there were a lot of other players who showed out with triples or multiple hits — but I was very happy and humbled to receive it.”
The lefthanded hitter said he wasn’t even tired after hitting 10 home runs earlier that morning. While his father flew up from Florida to pitch to him, Shields ultimately decided to go with seeing coach Jeff Chapuran toss to him, and it worked in his favor. He smacked five in the first round, and fellow lefthanded hitter Anthony Fontana (Chipola College), an infielder for the North Fork Ospreys, hit three in round one to advance. Southampton Breakers Robbie Holmes (Monmouth University) hit two, and all other challengers hit one on six outs. Fontana hit four in the final round, and Shields hit four straight following his first out. What looked to be a fifth consecutive was arguably called foul, and after another out the junior sealed the deal.
“Once I got into a groove, I knew I was going to be able to get on a good run,” Shields said. “But trying to hit homers gets me into bad habits, so I just stick to hitting the ball hard where it’s pitched. If it goes out, then it goes out.”
He hit a two-RBI single in the top of the seventh to give the Red Team a 3-2 lead in the All-Star Game, and University of Massachusetts catcher and fellow Bucks teammate Dylan Judd’s two-out single brought him home for the 4-2 final score.
“To be brutally honest, I was not feeling great at the plate,” Shields said. “I had seen six pitches and swung through all six. One of the kids in our dugout yelled at me, ‘We didn’t come here to see you walk,’ because the count was 3-0, but my coach ultimately gave me the green light. I was just happy to put a hard ball in play and there just happened to be two guys on in scoring position. Dylan Judd knocking me in after I stole second was the icing on top.”
Long Island Road Warriors infielder Jon Marti (University of Delaware) tripled to center in the bottom of the second, and scored on a ground-ball hit from Sag Harbor Whalers infielder Matt Woods (Bryant College) to tie the game one-all. Westhampton Aviators outfielder Dan Franchi (Binghamton University) started things off for the Blue Team with a lead-off double in the first, scoring later that inning on an error. Pitching kept Blue alive in the middle innings, with North Fork Osprey’s Frankie Giuliano (Pace University) tossing a perfect fifth. His team backed him up when Riverhead Tomcats infielder Bryce Willets (Saint Mary’s College of California) homered deep to right field to begin the bottom of the sixth with a 2-1 advantage.
Following the Shields show, Southampton Breakers outfielder Johnny Hipsman (University of Richmond) singled off the right field wall to score Westhampton’s Chaney Dodge to give the game its final score. But it was the defense that secured it.
Westhampton pitcher Logan Verrino (Florida Southern College) kept the Red Team off the board in the top of the ninth, and Road Warriors’ Mike Mirando (Hofstra University) picked up the save, striking out three straight batters following a lead-off single on a bunt.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do sometimes,” Mirando said, smiling. “After seeing the bunt, it kind of gets you fired up to throw strikes, compete with all three pitches, and really just go after guys. Being in an All-Star game is something not a lot of people get to do, and this is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”