Draft prospect David Shields shows stuff to MLB scouts in win over Norwin

Thursday, April 18, 2024 | 8:46 PM

More than a dozen pro scouts crammed together above the brick backstop at Norwin and raised their radar guns in tandem each time Mt. Lebanon’s David Shields kicked up his leg to throw a pitch.

They aimed through the chain-link fence and zapped each glove-popping delivery.

A top-50 MLB draft prospect, Shields pretended the onlookers who hold him in such high regard weren’t there. That they didn’t make a special trip just to see him.

But they were, and they did.

The hard-throwing left-hander didn’t disappoint as he and the Blue Devils shut out Norwin, 6-0, on Thursday for a Section 2-6A sweep.

“It’s interesting, but I try to ignore it,” Shields said about the rush of attention he is getting as a potential high-round MLB draft pick. “It’s fun to have people want to come out and watch me. I am expecting a lot more of it, actually.”

Shields, a reclassified senior who has committed to Miami, expects to hear his name called in July and forgo college for a pro contract. He saw his first full action since recovering from a nasty bout with mononucleosis, throwing five shutout innings while touching 90 mph.

“We’re happy to get the big guy back on the mound,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “People don’t realize how sick he was. He was humped up. He lost so much weight. When I saw him, I didn’t recognize him. Today is a testament to how hard he worked.”

Shields (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), who is Baseball America’s No. 41 overall draft prospect, struck out nine, walked two and allowed three hits as the No. 3-ranked Blue Devils (10-3, 7-2) hit three home runs and took the three-game set from the Knights (5-7, 3-5).

“What we do offensively, it doesn’t matter who the pitcher is,” Norwin coach Craig Spisak said. “We go out and try to battle. But he was good — the best pitcher we’ll see all year. He had nice command and velocity and maximized his pitches.

“We were thinking they might throw him in Game 2 when they were at home.”

The Blue Devils also maximized their at-bats, especially early against Norwin starting pitcher Ethan Culbertson.

Sawyer Klasnick and Jake Tinnemeyer each sent first-pitch fastballs over the fence to lead off the first and second innings and give Shields a 2-0 lead.

“We haven’t been hitting, so to come out and do that, it’s like a breakout game for us offensively,” McCloskey said. “I didn’t want our guys to think it’s going to be easy because Dave is out there. It’s a good sign that we didn’t want to just rely on Dave.”

After a sacrifice squeeze bunt by Brett Hamel gave the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead in the fourth, another long ball put them comfortably ahead.

Graham Keen turned on a pitch and sent a towering blast over the left-field fence for a 6-0 advantage with two outs in the fifth.

“That third home run was big,” Spisak said. “If it’s 2-0 and we can find a way to score, it’s a little different situation. We threw first-pitch fastballs, and they were sitting on it.”

Shields, who struck out 106 last year in 67 2/3 innings and threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 win over North Allegheny in the WPIAL championship, had only pitched one other time this season. He had a three-inning stint against Canon-McMillan. But he seemed to gain more command after he had a lead and kept the Knights quiet, despite them getting runners in four innings against him.

“Norwin is a very good hitting team,” McCloskey said. “Our guys made some plays. It was nice to see the defense make some plays to get Dave deeper in the game.”

Chase Smith came out of the bullpen in the sixth for the Blue Devils and saw the Knights load the bases with no outs. But Smith struck out Trevor Vitsas, and Tristyn Tavares lined into a double play at first to end the threat.

Tinnemeyer finished 3 for 3 with a double, and Klasnick was 2 for 3 with a two-base hit of his own.

Keegan Carr and Ben Geissler each had two hits for Norwin, which has lost three in a row and five of six.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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