Deshefy Asserted Himself as Star Sophomore for Guilford Baseball
Lucas Deshefy crushed the expectations set for him as a sophomore, becoming a household name within the Guilford High School baseball program seemingly overnight.
With a .461 batting average, 14 extra-base hits, 29 strikeouts in 22.2 innings and a miniscule 0.93 ERA, the statistics are eye-popping.
“He’s absolutely just taken off,” Guilford baseball Head Coach Nick Merullo says. “It’s been pretty fun to watch. Statistically speaking, his numbers have been outstanding.”
On top of that, the sophomore shortstop is starting to accumulate the accolades befitting those numbers. Lucas, 15, was named both SCC Player of the Year and SCC Tournament Most Valuable Player, a unique set of accomplishments for someone his age.
“Toward the beginning of the season, I didn’t think I was even in contention for it,” Lucas says of SCC Player of the Year. “As I went through the season, it was something I was hoping to get. Coach told me privately at practice after the vote went out (that I had won). It was great. I was thinking, I don’t know the last time a sophomore won SCC Player of the Year.”
It’s a rare — and maybe, unprecedented — feat for someone of Lucas’s age, and not one he’s taking for granted. He reached base four times in the SCC Championship (a 10-7 Guilford victory over Fairfield Prep) and continued his strong play into the CIAC Class L State Tournament.
Guilford strung together wins over New London, Bethel, Wethersfield, and Berlin to reach its first state final since 2007. The third-seeded Grizzlies (21-3) fell to fifth-seeded Brookfield (19-5) in the finals on June 10 by a score of 2-0.
Despite being an underclassman, Lucas has become a leader for his team, a role he’s very much embraced throughout the season.
“He’s handling it really well,” Merullo says. “He says the right things. He gives credit to his teammates where it’s due. He’s a guy that’s definitely bought into our message, playing baseball for his teammates. He’s a good hard-working kid that’s kind of emerged and been thrust into the spotlight. He doesn’t let it go to his head. He’s a humble kid.”
At the beginning of the season, Lucas had a few goals: start on varsity and bat near the top of the order. While he had his ups and downs, as do most ballplayers, Lucas’s performance picked up over time. Over the last few weeks, he hit third in the order while manning shortstop, a spot that’d been open because of an injury. He also frequented as a closer, notching five saves.
Altogether, Lucas batted .461 with a whopping .594 on-base percentage and .711 slugging percentage, with 11 doubles, two home runs and 26 RBI. He also amassed a 4-0 record across 22.2 innings (12 appearances) on the mound, striking out 29 with a 0.93 ERA. Opposing batters hit only .193 against him. Again, eye-popping numbers.
“He’s up near the top in nearly every offensive category for us,” Merullo says. “Just from his physical size, confidence and competitiveness, we knew right away he could be a good player. He was ready to take on more of an advanced role.”
Indeed, Lucas saw an opportunity and grabbed it. And when he struggled, which wasn’t often, he kept his composure and made the necessary adjustments. His confidence never waned.
“Confidence is key,” Lucas says. “As you build up your confidence, you feel like a leader. When you feel like a leader, there’s no pressure. It feels fun.”
Players typically exert confidence in different ways, and Merullo says Lucas understands the fine line between being vocal and leading by example.
“You have to carry yourself that way,” says Merullo. “There’s different types of confidence. ... He’s got a very good balance between (bravado and confidence). He knows when to speak up, and he asserted himself as a leader. But he also knows when to let his play do the talking.”
Lucas did that plenty, helping to carry Guilford to its best season in more than a decade. The Grizzlies ripped off 11 straight wins to close the regular season, 10 of which came by multiple runs. His contributions certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
“I’ve coached some good players over the years,” Merullo says. “Usually that sophomore year for a lot of guys, they’re still trying to figure things out. Usually their consistency isn’t there. Every opposing coach and pitcher knows, that’s the guy they don’t want to let beat them. It’s pretty special how he’s asserted himself this quickly.”