Nick Shiffler loves playing second base.
But recently he was asked to play a new position. He was happy to do it.
Shiffler is a junior at Father Judge High School, and he’s one of the leaders on the team, both on and off the field. Early in the season, his teammate, shortstop Brooks Henderson, got banged up. After missing a little time, he was ready to come back to the lineup, but to work him back in, the Crusaders moved Shiffler to shortstop and Henderson to second base while he recovers.
“His arm was sore, so we switched positions,” Shiffler said. “I play shortstop in summer leagues, so I’m just picking up where I left off last year.
“I like playing second base more than shortstop, but I love shortstop, too. It’s going really well. When someone goes down, you have to pick up your teammate. I love playing with Brooks, we have great chemistry. If you can play shortstop, you can play second, it’s the same thing. It’s a lot easier when you have good chemistry with the other infielders.”
Shiffler isn’t just performing in the field.
He’s also having a year at the plate.
Shiffler is among the leaders in most offensive categories for the Crusaders. He leads the team with a pair of home runs, he has eight hits, seven RBIs, four stolen bases and leads Judge in slugging percentage.
Behind his heroics, the Crusaders are 6-3 in a very tough Catholic League. But he believes the success has been from a number of reasons, starting with the guys on the mound.
“We have a lot of talent, and we’re playing well together,” Shiffler said. “As of now, I think the main strength comes from our pitching but I feel like as soon as our bats heat up, with our pitching, we can win a lot of games. We always knew Dave (Rodriguez) and John (Westfield) could beat anyone, and Tim (Gress) is doing really well.”
The Crusaders are firing on all cylinders and only improving.
They’ve won three straight, including triumphs over top teams Neumann-Goretti and Germantown Academy. Their last loss was a great game, but it ended with Judge falling to La Salle 4-3 in 10 innings.
The more this team plays together, the better they’re doing. And that’s good news for this year and next.
Judge is a very young team.
While there are some very important seniors on the roster, the bulk of the team consists of underclassmen. Almost all of them will return next year, meaning the Crusaders should be in the mix to win the Catholic League championship in 2023.
But they’re not looking ahead. In fact, the only thing on their minds this year is bringing home a championship in June.
“Honestly we have to play together, because we have good chemistry and we all play hard for each other,” said Shiffler, who grew up in Mayfair and now lives in Bustleton. “If you get out, you can’t take it to the next at-bat. We have the talent, we have the pitching, the bats the gloves, we have to put it together every game. Against La Salle we had three hits, and lost in the 10th inning. We could have won that game.
“We are a young team. We were a really young team last year, and this year, a lot of the team is sophomores and juniors. The seniors are great, too, but there’s not that many of them. We’re a really young team with a lot of talent.”
Not only are they talented, they’re not afraid to put in the work.
Most of the team works at the sport all year round.
In fact, the sport has the full attention of most of the roster, including Shiffler.
Sometimes that hard work results in pretty heated competition.
“I used to play basketball, and I liked it, but I wasn’t the best and I thought if instead of putting 50 percent into baseball and 50 percent into basketball, I would just put all that work into baseball.
“I think one of the reasons we’re starting to hit is because when we would work out, we would versus our pitchers. It helped them and it helped us. If you can hit off our pitchers, you can hit anyone. They made us better.”
The hard work also builds chemistry.
Shiffler plays summer ball for the Bucks County Generals and a few guys from Judge play on that team. The more they play together, the better they are.
“Our chemistry is on point,” Shiffler said. “We always grew up on the same team. When you hit the big field, you go to showcase teams, and originally we all split up, but now we’re all back and playing together.”
Now it’s just a matter of keeping things going and preparing for the playoffs. Shiffler thinks that won’t be a problem.
“Our goal is to win the championship, that’s the main one, and at least make it to (the state playoffs),” Shiffler said. “We want the seniors to win, and we want to win together.”