Anders DeShields’ former teammate called his shot.
It was this time last year that St. James pitcher Preston Lane predicted DeShields would be the best baseball player on the Grand Strand in 2013. All DeShields did was prove Lane – and plenty others – right.
The Sun News Toast of the Coast Baseball Player of the Year led his team to its fourth straight region title, in the process continuing what has been a long line of dominant Sharks players.
“Everyone was gunning for him,” Coach Robbie Centracchio said. “We saw everyone’s best game plan with him. They were bunting all the time. They were stealing at odd spots. We saw everyone’s best. His talent level is probably higher than any pitcher we’ve ever had. He’s got it all on the mound.”
The College of Charleston signee finished up his two-year Sharks career by going 6-1 with a 1.24 ERA. The lefty was also impressive with the bat. Fulfilling St. James’ clean-up spot, DeShields was .394 with 15 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
And to think, the highly recruited player almost didn’t get an opportunity to shine the way he did.
DeShields transferred to St. James in the spring of 2012 from Byrnes. After being an afterthought at the Class AAAA school, he was almost immediately an impact player on the Grand Strand.
“[Centracchio] had a really strong feeling about me,” DeShields said. “He really just threw me out there and let me do my thing. I tried to impress him as much as possible. I wanted to go out there and be the No. 1 guy. The chance to play for him was just amazing. I don’t think I would have been able to get that shot had I stayed at Byrnes.”
Said Centracchio: “With him, a lot of it was talent. He wasn’t getting to play as much at his old school. I just remember him thanking me during his first year. I was like ‘How did this kid not get a chance before?’ I think playing on that big stage allowed him to excel.”
DeShields’ numbers maybe weren’t as flashy as some of the high-profile Sharks pitcher before him. A list that included Gunnar Kines, Anthony Cossentino and Lane, however, now also includes DeShields.
Centracchio said there were several different situations the last two seasons in which St. James needed a victory to clinch various championships – including the Mingo Bay, region or district. And just about every time, he put his team’s fate into DeShields’ hands.
The expectations of that, as well as Lane’s prediction, led DeShields to strive for something more.
“I just wanted to go out and show that I could be that guy that they could rely on to win that game or be in a big situation,” he said. “When people talked about me, I would try to show them that I would go to the weight room, show up early to all the practices, show up to all the fall games.”
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