Sheffields emerge from WWBA 16u

Tournaments : : Story
Patrick Ebert        
Published: Friday, July 22, 2011

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Knights Baseball National Coach Eric Fruechtemeyer knows pitching talent when he sees it. The program has seen several of their pitchers go on to become premium draftees in recent years, including 2009 first-rounder Rex Brothers.

The latest players from his team to emerge are brothers, Jordan and Justus Sheffield of Tullahoma, Tennessee. Separated by a year in school, both took the mound for the Knights this week at the 16u WWBA National Championship in Marietta, Georgia.

When 2013 grad Jordan Sheffield got the start on Sunday against PAL Elite he was relatively unknown by the scouting and college recruiting community. It didn't take long for that to change dramatically.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander pitched comfortably in the 89-92 range with his fastball, topping out at 94. While the numbers alone are impressive, it's easy to see him adding velocity given the ease in which he threw.

“I've been working on staying closed longer, and that's helped my velocity,” Jordan said of his improved fastball. “It was important to throw strikes. They use a wood bat, so throw strikes and let them put the ball in play.”

His younger brother Justus, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound left-handed pitcher, got the nod on Wednesday against the East Cobb Astros 15U. A 2014 grad, his velocity too is on the rise, topping out at 88 sitting at 83-86.

“We do a lot of bands and long toss to help with our velocity,” said Justus of his improvement over the last year. “I've been working on mixing my moves when runners are on base.”

Both Jordan and Justus also show the ability to change speeds, something their coach knows is important when pitching against advanced competition. Jordan throws a sharp curveball as well as a late-breaking slider, both thrown in the 77-80 range, whereas Justus throws a curveball and a changeup.

“We try to preach to all of our guys that it's important to be more than just a one-pitch guy,” Coach Fruechtemeyer said discussing some of the things he works on with all of his players. “It takes more than just a fastball nowadays.”

It was also apparent that they have been well coached, both on and off the field.

“I've been impressed the way they handle themselves off the field,” Fruechtemeyer continued. “They play the game hard, they obviously have power arms but they also pitch, they're not just throwers.”

The experience to play not only against so much elite competition, but in front of so many professional scouts and college recruiters is very valuable in any player's development. Like most of the teams participating in the 16u WWBA National Championship, Fruechtemeyer has kept his team busy and on the road for most of the summer.

“We knew what to expect when we came down here, but we were partially surprised by how hard some of these guys threw,” Fruechtemeyer said of the players' experience. “There were a lot (of players) here and there were a lot of people watching them. It not only helps the two boys (the Sheffield brothers) on the field, but it also helps every other player on the team getting exposure playing in front the scouts and the top colleges in the country.”

Both Jordan and Justus embraced the experience as well.

“It was a great game,” Jordan said of his outing last Sunday. “It's been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work went in to get here, it's been great.”

“It was awesome playing all those teams that I've never played before,” Justus added. “Playing in front of all of those scouts was a pretty cool thing.”

Because of that exposure, Jordan is now talking with numerous elite Division I programs, including Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

Justus stands to benefit from watching the recruiting process his older brother has quickly been thrust into. And that adds to the natural competition the two share as brothers.

“It makes me better playing with him because of course I want to be better than him,” Justus said of the increased attention Jordan is receiving. “We're pretty much each other's competition.”

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