Hempfield’s Phil Fox commits to Gardner Webb

Friday, July 31, 2020 | 1:00 AM

Phil Fox lost out on his junior baseball season at Hempfield because the PIAA canceled spring sports during the onset of the coronavirus outbreak.

But Fox knew he still had the travel season ahead of him.

When that part of his calendar survived any postponements or breakdowns and moved forward as planned, he took full advantage.

He showed his skills to college coaches virtually and ended up pulling in several Division I scholarship offers. Late Thursday night, he reached a decision and revealed his favorite one.

Fox, a pitcher and outfielder, declared verbally to play at Gardner Webb (N.C.).

He also had offers from from Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Pitt, North Alabama, Youngstown State and Division II programs IUP, Millersville and Seton Hill.

“I think it was just a perfect fit for me,” Fox said. “I had a handful of other great offers. … Gardner Webb is a school I’ve had my eyes set on for the longest time. The campus is beautiful, playing in the south has always been a goal of mine, and I had a good connection with the coaching staff because they’re all Western Pa. guys.”

Gardner Webb head coach Jim Chester was the head coach at Penn State Greater Allegheny for eight years, where he went 239-84-1. He also spent three years at Lock Haven and began coaching as an assistant at Seton Hill in 2003.

Playing for the East Coast Sandhogs, Fox took part in a number of out-of-state showcases staged by Prep Baseball Report and Perfect Game USA.

Highlights from livestreamed events made their way to college coaches who connected with prospects during the new wave style of recruiting birthed by the NCAA “dead” period and safety restrictions.

Fox does not think he would have received the recognition he did, nor would he have landed a spot as a two-way player, had the showcase circuit been shut down.

“I’m beyond grateful for them and all the coaches there,” he said. “I honestly couldn’t have done anything without them. I don’t think it could’ve happened without a travel season.

“Starting without a high school season really hurt not only me, but I think almost everyone because that’s when you work out all the kinks in your swing and throw. A lot of us players were coming straight into some of the most highly recruited events of the year with not nearly as much preparation as you would normally get.”

Fox said he had mutual interest in Gardner Webb before covid-19 struck.

“Still, though, none of this would have even been possible if it wasn’t for my parents and coaches,” he said.

Fox hit .300 as a sophomore with seven runs and was 0-0 with a 2.62 ERA in six mound appearances.

Gardner Webb recently offered Norwin’s Nick Fleming.

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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