Versatility a key for Shepherd

By Jordan Murray

Sports Editor

The Viterbo baseball team lost 11 seniors from last year’s team, many of them major contributors at the plate and on the mound. The per­sonnel losses have left the roster thin, with just 21 players.

Blake Shepherd thinks that with this team’s versatility, it won’t mat­ter.

The junior outfielder and pitcher, elected a team captain, hopes to be a prime example of the roster flexibil­ity the V-Hawks will need to have a successful spring. Shepherd spent most of his freshman season on the mound, compiling a 5-2 record in his first year as a V-Hawk. After shoul­der surgery robbed him of most of his arm strength, Shepherd spent last season in the outfield.

The switch turned out to be a suc­cessful one. Shepherd hit .343 with seven home runs last spring, earn­ing a spot on the Midwest Collegiate Conference First Team.

Shepherd parlayed his strong spring into a spot in the North­woods League, a collegiate summer baseball league featuring some of the best players in the country, for the hometown La Crosse Loggers. After being released by La Crosse, Shepherd found a home with anoth­er Northwoods team, the Willmar Stingers.

Shepherd exploded in Willmar, setting a team record with nine home runs and 27 runs batted in while hitting .265 for the summer.

Power numbers like those can attract the eyes of Major League scouts. The Minnesota Twins are among a handful of teams that have inquired about Shepherd.

As for this spring, Shepherd knows he needs to do more than hit for this team to be successful.

“My arm feels pretty good,” Shep­herd said. “The velocity I used to have off the mound is coming back.”

Shepherd won’t be the only one playing multiple roles for the V-Hawks. Senior infielder and fellow captain Justin Sunderland expects to see time at both middle infield po­sitions, while senior outfielder Joey Bergles may find himself playing some third base as well. Freshmen will also have to be contributors, es­pecially on the mound.

Shepherd will join Chris Dunn and Martin Aguirre as leaders of the pitching staff, while sophomore Cole Clements hopes to successfully return from Tommy John surgery.

“The team’s really buying in this season,” Sunderland said. “It’s definitely a group of hard-working guys.”

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