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Tullahoma High School pitcher Justus Sheffield continues to add awards to his already-impressive résumé.
On Wednesday night, the Wildcat hurler was one of 20 players selected from across the country to play for the 18U National Baseball Squad. Team USA will compete in the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) 18U World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan scheduled from Aug. 30 through Sept. 8.
“It’s a huge honor,” Sheffield said. “Growing up I’ve always wanted to play for Team USA. When my brother made the 16U National Team, he told me about his experiences playing in Mexico. I found out that they had the 18U team and I thought I’d go out there and give it a shot. It’s really a dream come true.
“You get to play for not only for your town back home, but for the whole United States of America and that’s a huge feeling,” he continued. “I woke up to about 12 text messages and a lot of direct messages and Tweets towards me. I felt real happy waking up this morning.”
On June 23, Sheffield was one of 40 players selected to compete in the 18U National Team Trials, held in Los Angeles starting on Aug. 16.
The trials wrapped up on Wednesday with Sheffield showcasing his talents.
In a scrimmage matchup, the southpaw threw four innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven against some of the best competition in the country.
After the trials finished on Wednesday, the coaches had a difficult decision in front of them as they had to cut half of the players who competed.
“The [trials] were tough,” Sheffield said. “The pitching was probably the best pitching that I’ve seen. The pitching was outstanding and even the coaches said that the pitching here was one of the best pitching staffs that they’ve seen. It’s an honor to make it as a pitcher.”
On Aug. 11, Sheffield was invited to participate in the Perfect Game All-Star Classic in San Diego. The game was broadcasted nationwide on the Major League Baseball Network.
During the top of the eighth frame, the lefty pitched .2 of an inning, facing three total hitters, allowing one walk and striking out two before being relieved. In the bottom half of the inning, Sheffield came into the game to pinch run and eventually scored.
“It was the best all-star game that I’ve ever competed in,” Sheffield said. “Everything about the atmosphere was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. Plus, getting to play at Petco Park in San Diego was an amazing experience because that was the first time that I’ve played on a Major League field.
“Overall, I thought I pitched pretty good,” he continued. “I really wish I wouldn’t have walked the second batter, but the pitch got away from me. We had 10 pitchers so I knew once I got two outs, that I was going to be relieved.”
In order to play in the all-star game, Sheffield had to withdraw from Tullahoma High School due to Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) rules that prohibit students from playing in all-star games once the school year has started. The THS senior found a loophole, and briefly dropped out of school to play in San Diego, re-enrolling in classes on Aug. 14.
However, after being selected to represent Team USA, Sheffield will have to be marked absent from school. However, while he is on the road, Sheffield is keeping up with his schoolwork using the Tullahoma City School’s new online system.
“I brought my laptop and I keep up a lot of work through Edline,” he said. “I keep up with a lot of my work through there and my teachers usually post it on there.
“Some of my teachers are emailing me assignments and I have some other teachers that have already sent my work with me,” Sheffield continued. “I gave them a sheet of paper and let them know the dates that I could possibly be missing and they gave me all the work. Every day that we can, we will have long study hall sessions. I’ve got most of my work caught up, not all of it, but most of it.”
On Friday, the team will practice and play a scrimmage. The squad will then catch a flight that leaves Los Angeles at 1:45 a.m. and head to Taiwan. Sheffield noted this will be the first time he has ever been out of the country and he is excited about the opportunity at hand.
“I’m mostly excited about meeting new people,” he said. “Just seeing what people are like and their lifestyle and meeting new kids will be a great experience.”
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