Wyatt Shenkman

Wyatt Shenkman, a high school junior who has announced his intention to play at ECU.

“He’s a leader. He’s a quiet kid but he’s a competitor. He’s not a smack-talker, he goes out there and he’s all business.” That is how Riverside High School’s varsity baseball coach Sam Plank describes junior Wyatt Shenkman.

Shenkman, a 6-3 right-handed pitcher from Virginia, committed to play baseball at the collegiate level last Monday, announcing on Twitter his intent to play at East Carolina University for head coach Cliff Godwin.

Having made his official visit during the Purple-Gold World Series, Shenkman was given a full tour of the facilities and amenities available to Pirate players.

“I think everything pretty much stood out, just really enjoyed my time there,” Shenkman said. “Really like the facilities, really liked the campus, thought it was beautiful. The hitting facility was really amazing and the pitching facility, which is still a work in progress, but still very, very amazing. I really enjoyed going in there and looking at it. I really liked the locker rooms and everything around the facility.”

While Wyatt has been known the swing the bat a little in high school, his collegiate days will likely be spent in ECU’s renovated locker room and pitching facility, one that has also been slated for an upgrade.

Standing at 6-3, 225 pounds, Shenkman is an imposing figure on the mound. Still just a junior in high school, he was clocked at 90 MPH this fall with his fastball at the WWBA Championship in Jupiter, Florida.

“I think I’ve always been a power pitcher,” Shenkman said. “I think pitching with velocity has been my strength most of the years, but hoping to make a velo jump this winter and this off-season to be ready for spring.”

Modeling his game after Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan growing up, Shenkman is said to have a heavy fastball, one with good arm-side arm, according to scouting reports. With his delivery, Shenkman gets down the mound well, using his length to shorten the 60-feet, six-inch gap between the pitcher and hitter.

On video, Wyatt’s fastball stands out. Jumping from his right hand, it gets on hitters in a hurry and allows for Shenkman to work any quadrant of the strike zone. Still, however, with his youth and the desire by his coaches to keep him healthy, the breaking ball is still new to his repertoire.

“The curveball/slider, I’ve been trying to figure out which one to throw, which one to perfect,” Shenkman said. “But I feel like I’ve had most command over that and then the change-up is still a work in progress, but it’s getting there.”

Sitting in the 76 to 79 MPH range, Shenkman’s curveball/slider combo plays well off his elite fastball velocity. Additionally, Wyatt gets good separation velocity-wise on his change-up as it sits in the lower-80s range.

Tabbed to be the No. 1 starter for his high school team for the upcoming season by his head coach, Shenkman started the Virginia Class Four state championship game in June. While Riverside ended up losing that contest to Lafayette, it’s that kind of big-game experience that prepares young pitchers for the next level.

“He works so hard in the weight room and with his diet and everything,” Plank said. “He wants to play professional baseball, that’s one of his goals. He works hard to get to the next level which is a high-end D1 program like East Carolina. Hopefully the next step after that is getting the chance to play professionally.”

Plank has experience coaching players who ended up in professional baseball. J.B. Bukauskas played under Plank at the high school level and was later selected by the Houston Astros in the first round of the 2017 MLB draft.

Himself, Plank played collegiately at West Virginia University and drew upon that experience when talking to Shenkman about his possible commitment.

“We’ve had some talks because I played at West Virginia University,” Plank said. “I said ‘I’ve had many trips to Greenville, it’s an awesome place.’ I said, ‘the school loves their baseball team.’ He had a great visit. I thought it was a great fit for him.”

Much of that fit centers around the coaching staff at ECU. Associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Jeff Palumbo made contact with Shenkman during the fall which ultimately led to a visit and commitment from Wyatt.

Even with multiple other Division I schools interested, Shenkman made his commitment having made no other official visit to those schools.

“Coach Godwin reminds me exactly of my high school coach which is kind of perfect for me, just keeping the tone set,” Shenkman said. “I really enjoyed all the coaches. Coach Palumbo saw me at multiple events over the fall and he was the one that reached out to me.”

Having made an additional step in his journey on a baseball diamond, Shenkman draws on the support from his family and coaches to keep working. Described as “driven” by Plank, Shenman has earned a reputation as a hard worker from his coach.

Even so, Wyatt knows he would not be in this position without the support from his family, namely his parents, throughout the years.

“Parents, obviously huge impact with me always,” Shenkman said. “Traveling with me to these tournaments and always supporting me. They’ve been great throughout the years and I’m really happy to have them.”

Still with room to grow, Plank believes his ace can show up at ECU having added a couple inches to his frame and, in turn, some added velocity to his fastball. With junior right-handed pitcher Gavin Williams likely departed from the roster by the time Shenkman arrives, there will be somewhat of a passing-of-the-torch moment between the fire-balling right-handers.

Between that moment and now, however, stands two seasons of baseball to play for Shenkman. They give him an opportunity to build upon his already impressive strengths as a pitcher, as well as a chance to continue fine-tuning his mechanics and secondary offerings. Nevertheless, Shenkman looks to be yet another potentially impactful recruiting pick-up for Godwin and the Pirates.

“I think his ceiling is really high,” Plank said.

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