UPDATE: Seton Hall Prep baseball head coach Mike Sheppard Jr. secures 700th career victory

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WEST ORANGE – Seton Hall Prep varsity baseball head coach Mike Sheppard Jr. won his 700th career game when the Pirates defeated West Essex, 2-0, April 20, at the Kelly Athletic Complex in West Orange.

Sheppard Jr. has been the Pirates head coach for 30 seasons since 1987. He has a 700-190-4 record in 31 seasons. He began his career at West Orange High School where he coached for one season in 1986.

In the win over West Essex, the Pirates scored two runs in the second inning on a sacrifice fly to right field by junior Eric Raio and the other run scored on an infield error. That was all seniors Gerard DePhillips and Dwayne Marshall  needed as they combined on a three-hitter. DePhillips threw six innings, allowing three hits with six strikeouts and Marshall picked up the save with two strikeouts in the last inning.

Following the game, several people commented on this great feat by Sheppard. Frank Gately, a 26-year assistant of Sheppard, said, “His commitment to the team, the players, and the school is unmatched. He is just a class act, and if anyone deserves to reach 700 wins, it is him.”

Monsignor Michael E. Kelly, the President of Seton Hall Prep, said, “It’s been a pleasure to watch him coach his teams through the years and what I really like is the dedication he has for the kids academically.”

DePhillips, the winning pitcher, said, “Coach ‘Shep’ emphasizes to us to continue to take one game at a time and never look too far ahead.”

Senior outfielder John Savino commented, “It’s really about the work ethic and hustle with coach ‘Shep.’ He stresses hustling on and off the field every inning and also every play during the game.”

Sheppard said after the game, “I just take it season by season and as long as I am healthy and have a passion for the game and I am not cheating the kids, I’ll keep coaching.”

The other coaches who have reached at least 700 wins are Ken Frank (833 wins), Toms River South; Marty Kenny (767), Christian Brothers Academy; Tony Ferainolo (754), Memorial (West New York)-deceased; and Harry Shatel (752) Morristown- deceased.

Sheppard commented on this list, “To have my name mentioned with those guys means so much to me. I had so much respect for Harry Shatel and to have my name up there with his, I must be doing something right.”

“My dad always spoke so highly of Mike,” said Bruce Shatel, the head coach at Delbarton and the son of Harry Shatel. “He is a coach I admire and a gentleman I am honored to call a friend.”

The next day, the Pirates traveled to Succasunna to take on Roxbury and lost, 7-3, for their first loss of the season. Trailing 1-0 after two innings, SHP tied the game on a sacrifice fly to left field by junior Kevin Gately in the third inning. They took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly to left field by freshman Nick Maldonado and an RBI single to center field by Marshall. Roxbury scored two runs in the fifth inning and four runs in the sixth inning to win the game.

On Friday, April 22, the Pirates traveled to Woodman Field to take on Montclair and won, 11-1. Senior Ryan Toohers went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and four RBI,  including a three-run homer in the third inning; senior Patrick O’Hare went 1-for-2 with two RBI; Gately and junior Nico Mottesi each had an RBI single and junior Mike Ukrainskyj had an RBI triple. Senior right-hander Brendan Shamieh  picked up his third win of the season, pitching six innings  and allowing no runs on three hits with eight strikeouts.

On Saturday, April 23, the Pirates hosted Monroe and won, 3-2, in eight innings, to raise their record to 12-1. Trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning, SHP scored two runs to take the lead on RBI fielder’s choice groundouts by Maldonado and junior Francis Prior. Monroe tied the score at 2-2 in the fifth inning before SHP won the game in the eighth inning. Toohers led off with a walk. He was sacrificed to second by O’Hare and scored on a single to center field by Savino. Toohers started the game and threw very well for five innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Maldonado threw two solid innings, allowing one hit and striking out five. Marshall picked up the victory, pitching the eighth with one strikeout.  

To begin last week, the Pirates  hosted Nutley at the Kelly Athletic Complex and won, 9-7, April 18. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings. Savino had an RBI single in the first inning. Gately had an RBI single and O’Hare walked with the bases loaded in the second inning. Gately had an RBI double in the third inning. Nutley scored two in the fourth and one in the fifth to make it 4-3 before SHP scored in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to right field by O’Hare to make it 5-3 after five innings. SHP scored four runs in the sixth to make it 9-3. Senior Nick DeNicola had an RBI double and sophomore Jack Zyska had a sacrifice fly. Prior  had an RBI triple and scored on a wild pitch. Nutley rallied for four runs in the seventh to produce the final score.

Sheppard’s current record after the week stands at 702-191-4.

Under Sheppard Jr., the Pirates have won:

  • 13 Greater Newark Tournament titles.
  • 12 Iron Hills Conference-Iron Division titles.
  • 9 North Jersey Non-Public A titles.
  • 6 Non-Public A state titles.
  • 5 Super Essex Conference-American Division titles.

Sheppard has sent players to 40 different Division 1 programs and many more Division 2 and Division 3 programs. He has coached 17 players who have gone on to play professional baseball, including No. 1 draft choice of the Detroit Tigers, Rick Porcello, who is now with the Boston Red Sox; Joe Martinez, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks; Eric Duncan, New York Yankees; and Nick Christiani, Cincinnati Reds.

Sheppard has been inducted into four Halls of Fame, including Seton Hall University (1991), Newark, N.J. (1995), Seton Hall Prep (2005), and NJSIAA (2006).

He has also earned national recognition as he was selected the American Baseball Coaches Association Region 2 and National Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2007.

His teams have been nationally-ranked during/end of the season by USA Today nine different years.

He has played and coached American Legion Baseball for Vailsburg Post 395 for 15 years

GNT to begin

The seeding meeting for the Greater Newark Tournament – which is considered the Essex County tournament – was scheduled for April 26. SHP is the three-time reigning GNT champion.