Ace David Shields pitches Mt. Lebanon to sweep of Hempfield, 2-game section lead

Thursday, April 25, 2024 | 9:11 PM

Mt. Lebanon senior David Shields missed the first few weeks of the season battling mononucleosis, a viral infection that causes a sore throat and fever, often in young adults.

While one of the top high school baseball players in the state is just now working back to feeling like himself, on Thursday, he made the Hempfield lineup feel sick.

Shields pitched his first complete game, scattering four hits while striking out 13 batters, as Mt. Lebanon hung on to first place in Section 2-6A with a 3-1 win over Hempfield.

“David is not good by accident. He’s as dedicated as Ian Happ and Austin Kitchen were in high school. That’s how hard David works,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “He worked his way up to 100%, then he got mono, and I’m not joking when I say he showed up for practice and I didn’t recognize him, he lost that much weight.”

Shields lost 15 pounds and could not do anything for four weeks as he dealt with a complete lack of energy from the infection.

“To be honest, I feel like I was in the best shape of my life before,” Shields said. “I made all of this progress (in the offseason). I didn’t play football last year, and it was kind of like I was working all the way up to this point for it to just kind of go away.”

Thursday was only the third appearance on the mound this season for Shields, who threw a no-hitter in beating North Allegheny in the 2023 WPIAL championship game.

He had pitched nine innings in picking up two wins, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out 16 coming into the third game of the section series showdown against Hempfield.

The game attracted at least 15 major-league scouts, who were jammed behind the home plate cage to watch the Miami recruit in action.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say I don’t feel a little pressure,” Shields said of the scouts. “You can feel pressure, but it’s how you react to it. When I see everybody back there and all the parents out in left field, I love it. I love people watching me, and it’s added motivation.”

Shields set the Spartans down in order in the first, third, sixth and seventh innings, retiring the last seven batters he faced.

Hempfield junior Quinn Wilkins had a two-out single in the second inning, senior Carson Shuglie a one-out single in the fourth inning and senior Caden Bionidi singled in the fifth inning following the Spartans’ only run, a solo home run over the left-field fence by senior Max Short.

“It actually hit my friend’s dad’s car, so I’m sure he’ll be mad at me,” Shields joked about the home run. “Mr. Tinnemeyer, I’m sorry. I’d like to say it wasn’t my fault, but (Short) made a good swing on it.”

Fellow left-hander Parker Donsen, Hempfield’s senior starter, was impressive for the Spartans. He allowed three earned runs on only five hits with three walks, a hit batter and five strikeouts in six innings.

“I thought Parker pitched great,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “It was a tough assignment, and he was up to the task.”

Mt. Lebanon loaded the bases in the third inning with one out when senior Sawyer Klasnick singled, senior Nolan Smith walked and freshman Graham Keen singled. Klasnick scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by senior Jake Tinnemeyer.

The Blue Devils extended their lead in the fourth inning when, with two outs, senior Luca Borris was hit by a pitch, went to third on another single by Klasnick and scored when Shields helped his cause with his second hit of the game.

Then, with Klasnick at third base, Shields took off from first base while Donsen was in his stretch. Donsen stepped off and took a step toward Shields, who had stopped between first and second. Meanwhile, Klasnick raced home with a stolen base and the Blue Devils’ third run while Shields was able to get safely back to first base.

“I told the kids in the postgame that for those kids who have played in a varsity playoff game, that’s what it’s like,” McCloskey said. “Things happen so fast, and you have to do everything that you can do to get a run.”

Mt. Lebanon (13-3) began this week one game behind Hempfield (12-4) in Section 2-6A.

Following a three-game sweep, the Blue Devils improve to 10-2 in the section and have a two-game lead over the Spartans, who fall to 8-4.

Both teams have only three section games remaining next week with Mt. Lebanon needing only one win or a Hempfield loss to secure a share of the section title.

The Blue Devils face Baldwin next week, and the Spartans conclude with three games against rival Norwin.

“We are disappointed by the outcome,” Buzzard said. “I thought we did a nice job battling against Shields. He is obviously a tremendous talent, and I thought our guys were ready to go.”

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