Prep baseball: Shepherd, Miclat sign with Division I schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó The odd-couple combination of 6-foot-3 Randy Shepherd and 5-7 Philip Miclat provided challenges for picture-takers Monday, but both Falcons were all smiles.”Philip’s like me,” West Rowan baseball coach David Wright said with a laugh. “He needs to get up on a chair.”
The vertically challenged Wright, who starred at Carson-Newman, presided over a signing celebration in the school media center Monday. Teammates and proud parents consumed cake and peanuts alongside West’s latest pair of signees.Miclat, West’s shortstop, made official the verbal commitment he gave Boston College last spring.
“It’s a dream come true and the accomplishment of a goal I’ve had a long time,” Miclat said. “It’s a good birthday present. I turned 18 yesterday.”
Shepherd, a pitcher, signed with Appalachian State. He committed to the Mountaineers during the American Legion season.
“Those two kids have put in some time with baseball, and they’ve done what they’re supposed to do in the classroom,” Wright said. “It’s a great day for this school and community to have two signing with big-time programs, and it’s awesome we had K.J. (Sherrill) sign with Charlotte in basketball.”
West will likely have two more baseball prospects signing with Division I schools a year from now.
The recruiting process is heating up for junior outfielder Jon Crucitti and junior southpaw Zack Simpson.
Crucitti said he’ll visit Vanderbilt Dec. 6-7, while Simpson’s left arm has attracted attention from Appalachian State and Virginia Tech.
Miclat hit .348 with 18 steals for the Falcons last season and has received raves for his glovework.
His brother, Greg, was a standout player at Virginia and signed with the Baltimore Orioles last summer after being drafted in the fifth round.
“Greg got more height, but Philip has the same tool makeup,” Wright said.
Miclat hasn’t hit a high school homer yet, but the emphasis is on yet. His power surge for the Rowan County Legion team ó he hit four out of the park last summeró was a topic of discussion at every table.
Miclat vowed to hit at least three this spring (counting scrimmages), and hard-hitting catcher Hernan Bautista offered the opinion Miclat was delusional.
A friendly wager ensued.
“I was hitting bombs when I was 135 pounds, and I’m 146 now,” Miclat declared. “That’s going to mean 30 more feet.”
Neither Wright nor Boston College is worried about Miclat hitting homers.
“I’m sure BC is glad he’s adding some power, but I’m also sure they’re wanting him to work more on his bunting game than his power game,” Wright said with a laugh. “They want him to hit the ball on the ground and run and to be a steady infielder.”
Shepherd is new to West, although he already fits in smoothly with teammates he was striving to strike out last spring.
The right-hander, who picked Appalachian over UNC Wilmington, Charlotte and Gardner-Webb, throws in the high 80s and has power at the plate.
He was 6-5 as a junior with 66 strikeouts in 722/3 innings and a 1.73 ERA for a Carson team that went 10-13. In one stretch, he threw 26 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
Last summer, he struck out five in four dominating innings in the State Games and launched nine homers for the South Rowan Legion team in 102 at-bats.
So who starts on the mound opening day ó Shepherd or Simpson, who went 8-2 last season?
“A nice problem to have,” Wright said diplomatically. “A problem I’ve never had before.”
Since he committed to ASU, Shepherd has become a regular at football games in Boone.
“I love the atmosphere and I love that the whole town is into the school,” he said. “Everything is right there, so you can walk anywhere you want to go.”
Shepherd is following a running, lifting and swimming program prepared by Wright and is still growing.
Shepherd received a letter recently from the Tampa Bay Rays telling him a scout would be watching him this spring, and that brought a smile to his face.
He can expect more. With his frame, he’s got a chance.
“Coach (Chris) Pollard and I are kind of working hand-in-hand on Randy, and we see the same things for his future,” Wright said. “The goal this year is to see him pitching tougher and not just dominating people athletically.”
The additions of Shepherd, and Crucitti, who played at Mooresville last season, to a powerful nucleus of returners have raised expectations for West baseball to the level of 2003-04, when the Falcons were a force under coach Chris Cauble.
On paper and on the field are two different things, but West should be fun to watch.
“If we can stay healthy, there’s no excuse, really, for us not to do well,” Wright said. “East Rowan was an exceptional baseball team last year because they were good 1 through 9. We have the chance to have that kind of lineup this year, and we’ve got a lot of arms.”