College Baseball: Shepherd, Huffman in World Series
By Mike London
HICKORY — Randy Shepherd’s roller-coaster ride with baseball is about to end, but he hopes there will be one last celebration in the Division II Junior College World Series.
It’s already been a three-dogpile season for former West Rowan and South Rowan Legion players Shepherd and Brett Huffman and their Catawba Valley Community College teammates.
The Bucs (38-14) formed their first human pile of joy after they clinched the Region X regular season championship.
The second dogpile came following a comeback against Lenoir that put them in the tournament finals, and the third was after they romped 10-1 against Brunswick in the tournament final at Morehead City’s Big Rock Stadium.
“We were joking on the bus we should get a police escort back to Hickory,” Shepherd said. “And what do you know? Three cops pull up, one in front, one beside us and one behind us and took us the last five exits back to Hickory. I couldn’t believe it.”
The Bucs are ranked eighth nationally among D-II Jucos and will take on Western Oklahoma in their first game in the World Series in Enid, Okla., next Saturday.
It’s going to be an adventure just getting to Enid.
The Bucs will travel by tour bus and will split the 16-hour journey into two legs. They’ll stop in Memphis after the first day’s ride, practice, sleep, and then head on to Oklahoma.
Shepherd’s role in Oklahoma will be the same as it’s been all season. He’ll be in the bullpen. He was 6-1 for CVCC in 2011, but with the team blessed with more arms, he was 2-2 this year.
“I guess the highlight game for me was pitching three innings against Walters State, striking out five and only allowing one hit,” Shepherd said. “They’re always one of the best teams in Division I.”
Shepherd and Huffman were youthful opponents as 8-year-olds, and they helped the South Legion program pile up 65 wins from 2007-09.
Huffman has been one of CVCC’s sluggers this spring, leading the team in homers and batting around .350
A first baseman, Huffman did well for the Catawba Indians before leaving for CVCC, and he has signed with UNC Pembroke for next season.
“Brett’s really gotten in the weight room and he’s been hitting the ball great,” Shepherd said. “He’s put on 40 pounds of solid muscle, and I can’t remember him making more than one error all season.”
The 6-foot-3 Shepherd looked like a sure college star early in his high school career. His junior year at Carson, he struck out 66 and won six games with a 1.73 ERA.
He transferred to West Rowan for his senior year, but that’s when injuries started to take a toll on his right arm.
He signed with Appalachian State and was part of the Mountaineers’ program for a year, but it’s been a long while since his shoulder didn’t ache.
“I wish I was still starting games because I loved being the starter,” Shepherd said. “But I can’t throw high 80s like I used to. I just do what I can.”
Shepherd struggled back from a torn labrum and a partially torn rotator cuff to contribute at CVCC, but he’s accepted that the World Series will be his last fling.
“I’ve kinda realized that this is it,” he said. “I’m hanging them up after the World Series, and I’ll start taking music production classes in Charlotte in September.”
Shepherd isn’t dwelling on what might have been, and for all the sweat he’s put into baseball, he’s finally gotten something back this season.
“No complaints,” he said. “Brett and I had never won a ring. My last year in baseball has been a happy one.”