Run-down feeling Battling cold, Towson's Sheetz makes foes sick hitting .500 for week

May 02, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

Erik Sheetz came down with a cold earlier this week. The spring semester is coming to a close, and the two 15-page papers that were due in his upper-level courses last week cost him plenty of sleep.

Sheetz should feel run down more often.

A junior at Towson State, Sheetz was the only possible choice as the East Coast Conference baseball Player of the Week. In seven games between April 22 and 28, the stocky first baseman hit an even .500 (15-for-30), with 16 RBIs, six home runs and four other extra-base hits.

For the season, Sheetz has 14 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 21 career home runs. All are school records, surpassing marks set by another first baseman, Robbie Smith, during the 1988 campaign that stands as the high-water mark in Tiger baseball.

That '88 team won the ECC title, gaining a berth in the NCAA tournament. Towson State (24-21-1) can do it again this weekend in the ECC tournament at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, N.J. The Tigers are seeded third, and will play Delaware in tomorrow's first round at 3 p.m. UMBC got the fourth and final berth in the double-elimination affair when Rider beat Central Connecticut yesterday, 9-8 in 14 innings. The Retrievers play top-seeded Rider at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Weather permitting, the tournament concludes Sunday.

Sheetz preferred that the tournament start yesterday. He's on a roll like no other Towson State player has ever been, but coach Mike Gottlieb isn't surprised. He had Sheetz pegged for big things when he recruited him out of Havre de Grace High.

"I used to see Mickey Mantle hit home runs against a wind that was blowing 20 to 25 mph," said Gottlieb, a New York native and lifelong Yankees fan. "I'm not saying Erik is Mantle, but when he came here I assigned him No. 7. He has no idea what that means.

"Erik was a big, strong country boy with no finesse when he came here. He mashed high school pitching, but he had some adjustments to make."

Sheetz hit .487 with 10 home runs as a high school senior, earning first-team All-Metro honors and helping Havre de Grace to the state class 1A championship. He was also a two-way lineman and the school's scholar-athlete in football, and wanted to try both sports at Frostburg State. But Gottlieb was interested. A marketing major with a grade-point average above 3.2, Sheetz has received an assortment of state scholarships for his academic achievements.

Towson State had an older first baseman when Sheetz arrived, and he was miserable in the outfield in 1989, hitting for an average "that isn't printable" and collecting one home run.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder spent that summer in Reston, Va., playing in the Metro College League, and it was there that he fully familiarized himself with quality pitching. He had a .244 average, six home runs and 26 RBIs for Towson State last year, alternating at designated hitter and first base.

Following another summer in Virginia, Sheetz is one of the biggest hitters in the ECC, along with UMBC's sophomore catcher Bob Mumma and Delaware freshman Brian Wallace.

"I learned a lot the last two years," said Sheetz, who carries a .338 average. "I had to develop some patience at the plate. I saw good college pitching all last summer and I came back for fall ball in a groove."

He's still there.

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