Ferndale catcher Brady Shearer was recently filling out a form for the annual prep baseball all-state feeder games when he came across a question he couldn’t answer.
“It asked for a first, second and third position,” Shearer said in a phone interview,” and I was talking to my parents, and I was like, ‘I don’t have a second and third position. Catcher is my No. 1.’”
Shearer hasn’t known anything else since moving to the spot in third grade. It’s in his bloodlines, too. His dad, and two brothers also caught.
Any high school baseball coach knows the advantages of having a strong, seasoned catcher, and Golden Eagles coach Donny Hennigs knows how fortunate he is to have Shearer behind the dish.
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“He has experience,” said the Ferndale coach. “He has played a lot of baseball in his day, and in the summer he played with the Post 7 Senior Legion team. He has caught the last four years just about everybody in Whatcom County. It has been a blessing to have him.”
Shearer is one of nine Ferndale seniors who will take the field this weekend for the team’s Class 3A State Tournament opening-round matchup against Bainbridge Island at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 23, at Dream Field on Skagit Valley College’s campus.
The berth comes after a wild Class 3A District Tournament in which Ferndale won three consecutive elimination games to claim its state berth. The Golden Eagles rallied from down 6-2, scoring nine runs against Marysville-Pilchuck during the sixth inning of a winner-to-state, loser-out game last weekend.
Shearer has started behind the plate all four years of his high school career, but his veteran presence couldn’t have come at a better time for a Ferndale team entering the season with a largely untested pitching staff.
Ten innings is the amount of varsity throwing experience the team returned.
“Coming into varsity season it was, it makes you a little nervous,” said Shearer of the Golden Eagles’ pitching situation. “Coming in, you didn’t know what you were going to get. From the first practice we got together, threw some bullpens and they looked really good from the beginning of the season.”
Ferndale’s two starters, junior left-hander Kyler Schemstad and senior righty Corbin Puhan, have been tremendous all year. Schemstad has matured into a big-game pitcher, and Corbin has kept his club in every game.
The duo has thrived by throwing a ton of strikes, working the corners and then letting the team’s strong defense do the rest of the work.
But their season has come as no surprise to Shearer, who’s also played a role in molding both Schemstad’s and Puhan’s development.
“They looked good from the beginning of the season,” Shearer said. “They were some of the most well-prepared pitchers that I have ever caught to start a season.”
The Ferndale catcher offers much more than a steadying force for the Golden Eagles pitching newcomers.
He’s worked closely with assistant coach Michael Takemura, who caught at Whitworth University, to become as well-rounded as possible.
“He just catches and receives really well,” Hennigs said. “He blocks balls. Pitchers feel comfortable and framing it. And when runners get on base, he has an excellent throwing arm and quick release. Not a lot of guys attempt to steal bases on him, and that relaxes pitchers and allows them to focus on the batter.”
He brings a strong presence in the Golden Eagles’ batting order, too, hitting cleanup. And it’s not very often a catcher is one of the team’s better hitters.
“First of all, he’s a contact guy,” Hennigs said. “You know he’s going to put the ball in play, and he grinds out at-bats. Along with being a catcher, he knows when he’s up to bat what his job is, ‘I need a double here, or lay a bunt down or a sac fly.’ He understands the game.”
Arguably one of Shearer’s most important at-bats of the season came last week against Marysville-Pilchuck. After rallying to take an 8-6 lead, Shearer cleared the bases with a three-RBI double to extend the Golden Eagles’ lead.
Ferndale will hope for similar production this weekend against Bainbridge Island, as the Golden Eagles already know what they’re getting with Shearer behind the plate