By Tasha Cook
Although the Cavalier baseball season is still several months away from officially starting, the team already has two standout basemen.
Second baseman Blake Sturgeon and center fielder Chad Shannon stay with the team for their sophomore season after finishing second and third, respectively, in the nation’s NJCAA Division I ranking for stolen bases. Sturgeon finished last season with 66 stolen bases, while Shannon finished close behind with 65.
“Those two guys without question were the most feared base stealers in the Midwest, and for that matter in the country, finishing second and third,” said coach Kent Shelley.
Shelley said Sturgeon broke the school record for stolen bases last year.
“He’s having a productive fall so far, even though we’re just getting underway,” Shelley said. “Dynamic offensive player, handles the bat well, excellent bunter, very disciplined, great knowledge of the strike zone. Once he gets on base, he just creates tremendous pressure on the defense.
“Without any question he’ll be if not the best, one of the best second basemen in the second conference.”
As far as Shannon, Shelley said he is a very strong player and the fastest on the team, clocking 6.45 in a 60-yard dash. He also said Shannon was clocked throwing from the outfield at 90 m.p.h.
“When you take a gentleman as big and strong and physical, couple that with a plus arm and plus speed, you’re talking about a guy that’s gonna get and is getting tremendous attention from major Division I programs throughout the country as well as professional scouts,” he said.
“Blake, in my opinion, will definitely be highly recruited as well. These are two of our better players and definitely have the ability to go on and play at the major Division I level.”
Both players said one of the keys to their focus on stealing bases is their speed.
“I worked pretty hard in high school on improving speed,” Shannon said. “I wasn’t much of a speed guy when I was younger but then I grew into it.”
“We do a lot of off-season conditioning, as far as sprint work and everything else,” Sturgeon said. “I’ve always been fast but I really try to work on that and get even faster and improve on my technique a lot.”
The players also said they have developed a very close friendship, although they did not know each other before playing for the Cavaliers, Sturgeon said.
There was no rivalry involved in their close finish to each other for stolen bases, Shannon said.
“We really enjoy each other out here on the baseball field,” he said. “We keep each other in line, make sure each other are working hard. It was all in fun. We were mainly doing it for the team, trying to keep swiping those bags that way we could keep scoring runs and helping the team out.”
Shelley said the college has ranked among the top 15 academic baseball teams in the nation for the last four years, and three of those has also ranked in the top 15 on the baseball polls athletically. He said very few, if any, colleges can attain that type of statistic.
“We’re proud of the wins, we’re proud of the championships, but we come to expect those here at (the college),” Shelley said. “What we’re extremely proud of is these young men’s effort in the classroom. Shannon and Sturgeon are two of those leaders, not only on the baseball field but they’re two of our outstanding leaders in the classroom as well.
“I’m just extremely proud of both of them, I’m proud to be their head coach and I’m excited to watch what I feel is going to be two of the better sophomore performances this program has seen in a long, long time.”
Contact Tasha Cook, managing editor, at email@example.com.