Shepard's Ownership Of Generals' Pitching Continues
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 27, 2014, 12:45
Chance Shepard trots to home plate after blasting a two-run shot.
PETERSBURG — Hitting a baseball is arguably one of the toughest tasks to complete in all of sports. The difficulty in hitting a round baseball with a round bat is made even more arduous when acknowledging the amount of time a batter has to decide if a pitch is a strike, what type of pitch it is and whether he even wants to attempt a swing.
All of it makes what the Edenton Steamers Chance Shepard has done against the Petersburg Generals all the more impressive. His exploits at the Petersburg Sports Complex has reached past an occasional occurrence, but one that is expected. In fact, it has become so common-place that Shepard's at-bats are greeted by a Jaws' themed soundtrack to indicate his arrival in the batter's box.
And it was Shepard's arrival in the batter's box during the 2nd inning of a scoreless game Saturday night which made the center field scoreboard illuminate with a crooked number. Petersburg starter Cameron Tekker rolled through a 14-pitch 1st inning in relative ease, striking out the lead-off hitter on just three pitches and showing tremendous command of his off-speed deliveries.
But it all changed once the imposing 6-foot-1 catcher from North Carolina stepped up to the plate. Shepard patiently watched Tekker struggle to command his fastball, missing both to the outside and inside of the plate. Then, after fouling an outer-half fastball to the back-stop, Shepard uncorked a powerful stroke on his very next swing.
The barrel of the bat connected with the pitch, sending a loud crack into the ear drums of those in attendance and the ball soaring high over the left-field wall for a two-run home run. The mammoth blast helped the Steamers jump out to a 6-1 advantage before play was suspended due to a power outage. However, the story of the contest which lasted just three innings was the abundance of power Shepard has shown at against the Generals.
"I really don't know what it is," Shepard said of his success. "I don't know why it's like that here. I guess I just see the ball really well and I've been lucky enough to barrel a few of them up."
While Shepard was being modest, it's his game which speaks the truth. The rising junior entered Saturday's contest hitting just .207 during the Coastal Plain League season, but his production spikes when playing the Generals. The Steamers' catcher has now hit four of his five homers at the Generals' home ballpark.
It's what has made Shepard an easy target to be the Generals' villain, but even the fans have come to respect what he has done on the field. The Jaws-themed soundtrack played before he steps into the batter's box is a recognition of his production and the respect he has garnered from the Petersburg staff.
But Shepard doesn't quite know how to react when the loudspeakers start to blast the ominous tone each time he gets ready to take a hack.
"Honestly, I don't know how to react to that," he said with a laugh after the game had been suspended. "I just see the ball well and I've played well here all summer long. It's a good thing, I guess, that they play it for me."
Yet, the production Shepard has leveled upon the Generals' pitching staff should not be much of a surprise. Players don't suit up for a program like the one found at North Carolina State without being talented and the former high school football player certainly has his raw talent. But he also has a proven pedigree beneath his skin.
Both his father and uncle were around the game of baseball since birth with his dad also being a member of the Wolfpack. It was their love of the game which was bestowed upon Shepard and it has blossomed from there. Playing behind the plate for the first time during his sophomore year of high school, Shepard took to the position well and grew to like all the intricacies of the position.
The North Carolina State University catcher has left him mark at the Petersburg Sports Complex
He relished the chance to be a part of every play and being an important piece to the team's success or failure. And while suiting up for the Steamers, Shepard has been a key reason why Edenton has won eight of 10 games against the Generals this season.
His production at the plate and specifically his at-bats at the Generals home field has drawn the eye of Petersburg manager Daniel Wood. Even though Shepard has been a Generals-killer, it's difficult for Wood not to be in awe of what the Edenton star is accomplishing.
"I wish we could trade for him," Wood said jokingly. "He'd lead the league in home runs. He feels it here, man. One thing he does is always capitalizing on our mistakes. Hats off to him because that's a tough thing to do ... He's a tremendous ballplayer and it's been fun to watch him hit here. He's found his sanctuary."
Hitting a baseball is an art-form and in one particular ballpark, Shepard is a master, owning the Generals' staff and impressing both fans and opponents with his effortless, majestic home runs.