By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Mainland Regional’s Devin Sharkey had every intention of playing his junior season in spring 2018 before deciding what college he might like to attend to further his baseball career. But, when you are left-handed and start hitting mid-to-upper 80s on the radar gun, college coaches tend to start noticing.
Sharkey, already a two-year varsity player with the Mustangs, attended the Perfect Game Southeast Underclass Showcase this past summer along with some of his Sand Sharks traveling teammates such as Dan Nunan of Ocean City, Cole Vanderslice of St. Augustine Prep and Mainland teammate Nick Atohi. Nunan has given a verbal to the University of Delaware, Vanderslice to Villanova, and Athoi to Rowan College at Burlington County. Sharkey did well enough there to get some serious consideration from several schools, and recently announced he plans to attend Stony Brook University on Long Island.
“That’s where all the colleges go to, really. I went down to Georgia for a week. That was kind of my big week and that started to get the ball rolling. After that I figured out what school I wanted to go to, so that was probably the main thing that got me started,” Sharkey said. “I did very well down there. I threw one of my best games as a pitcher and hit the best I have in a while. All you have to do is do well once in front of a college coach and they’ll put you on their board. They’ll check up on you to see if that was a regular game for you, or if it was a one-in-a-thousand type game.”
Sharkey said the decision wasn’t easy, especially because all the interest seemed to come on suddenly.
“The other main college was James Madison University. That’s what it came down to. It was really a 50-50 decision. I loved both schools, it was more of just where I felt more comfortable when I was standing on campus, and what felt more like home,” he said. “When my coach told me that I’m a lefty who can throw into the mid-80s, he said a lot of colleges would be coming to me about pitching instead of outfield, so I knew that was coming. I had a decent amount (of innings). I had a few solid starts as a pitcher for Mainland.”
More and more, college coaches are recruiting freshmen and sophomores. For example, Lillo Paxia of Gloucester Catholic was already committed to Florida State last spring despite being just a sophomore. With players competing year-round on travel teams and in showcases there is much more exposure, but by the same token, players need to make up their minds quickly to take advantage of scholarship offers.
“My mindset before all these colleges started calling me was that I would play my junior year of high school ball and the summer going into my senior year would be when I would figure out what college I was going to. But this summer I thought to myself, ‘maybe I won’t be playing my junior season before I’m committed.’ And that’s exactly what happened,” Sharkey said. “I wasn’t thinking about it too much. When it all starts, nobody gives you a deadline, but once the deadlines start coming — if you’re not telling them you’re making a selection anytime soon they might think you’re not that interested in them, and they’ll think you are looking at other schools and they might not keep their offer on the table. I didn’t feel rushed until about the last month when schools were saying, ‘we’ve had the offer on the table for a while, what do you think?’ I went to Georgia at the end of August, so all through September I was talking to people and I knew in October I had to speed up (the process) a little bit.”
Stony Brook has been a solid program for decades under coach Matt Senk, but the Sea Wolves burst onto the national scene in 2012 when they beat LSU in the Super Regions to advance to the College World Series. Senk was the national coach of the year, and has amassed more than 700 wins in his career. Stony Brook has won four of the last nine America East Tournament championships and has won the league’s regular-season title in four of the last six seasons. The school’s most notable alum is Joe Nathan, a six-time Major League Baseball all-star.
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