With a heavy Patriot League schedule in the coming weeks, the Lehigh baseball team looks to cover some ground as it stands at 3-7 in conference play. The Mountain Hawks are hoping to make a big push before tournament play begins in the remaining 15 Patriot League games to improve their seeding.
Senior catcher Jeff Shanfeldt has proven to be a source of the team’s consistency so far this season.. Shanfeldt has connected on 18 of his last 40 at-bats, effectively securing a batting average of .450. From those at-bats, Shanfeldt has scored 10 runs, three home runs and 20 RBIs.
Coach Sean Leary said Shanfeldt’s performance this season is unprecedented.
“That stretch of 10 games was as fine as I have ever seen from an individual player in my career as a coach,” Leary said.
Leary said Shanfeldt’s most impressive feat during the 10-game stretch was the six walks he took, which reflected his mental toughness and grace on the field.
“It shows that he lets the game come to him and won’t go chase a pitch,” Leary said. “You can see how poised and focused he is during games.”
Leary said Shanfeldt’s success is a direct result of his commitment to the game and the time he puts into improving.
“Jeff (Shanfeldt) is always the first one to the batting cages, and is always the last guy to leave each day,” said senior pitcher and outfielder Chris Butera. “We had a game the other day and after catching for nine innings, Jeff stayed after and hit for another hour with Matt Hand. Shanfeldt is constantly trying to improve his craft as a complete player. If he’s not in the cage, he’s watching tape of his swing, Jeff (Shanfeldt) is always in a mode where he wants to get better at the little things.”
The tempo of most baseball games is largely controlled by the defense, making the catcher position an extremely important role on the field. Shanfeldt serves as the backbone of the team.
“Jeff (Shanfeldt) has to be a part-time psychologist when he is on the field,” Leary said. “He has to know when to talk to the pitcher, what pitches to be thrown and is constantly working with our staff members and the pitchers to improve their chemistry each and every day.”
Reflecting on his time as a Mountain Hawk, Shanfeldt said the most memorable highlights from his career are derived from competitions against rival Lafayette College. He said sweeping Lafayette his freshman and sophomore years will stay with him forever, and watching Mike Garzillo, ’16, now the director of baseball operations, hit a walk-off home run against Lafayette his freshman year was one of the craziest things he’s ever seen.
Shanfeldt said playing in the playoffs his freshman year was unlike anything he’d ever experienced.
“The atmosphere is just different when the stakes are higher,” Shanfeldt said.
After his final season comes to a close, Shanfeldt will head to New York City to work for Citigroup in its power and utilities investment banking division.
Shanfeldt and the Mountain Hawks will have the opportunity to capture another victory over Lafayette as they face the Leopards at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.