Shelton's DeFilippo overcomes COVID to play baseball at McDaniel

Santino DeFilippo has found a home playing baseball at McDaniel College.

Santino DeFilippo has found a home playing baseball at McDaniel College.

McDaniel College / Contributed photo

Santino DeFilippo doesn’t have to look far to remember what it was like playing baseball at Shelton in 2019.

“That team mirrors this team,” said DeFilippo, a freshman outfielder at McDaniel College in Maryland. “We were young at Shelton, with not a lot of varsity experience. We started 0-6 and ended being an 11 seed in states and almost knocked off Cheshire. At McDaniel, we’ve won three of our last six. Our conference (DIII Centennial Conference) is good. We lack experience right now.”

DeFilippo’s hopes of making a quick impression on coach Kevin Heiss was curtailed by COVID-19. A suitemate tested positive. DeFilippo went into quarantine. He had flu-like symptoms and tested positive. It took a total of 28 days to get a negative finding and return to school and baseball.

“I was exhausted, congested and slept a lot,” he said. “The body pain was incredible. I’m young and healthy. For anyone of a certain age it would be horrible.”

DeFilippo was in quarantine for his birthday. He took online classes. Baseball had begun on Feb. 1. He returned on March 25.

The pandemic impacted the schedule. A 40-game season was shortened to 14. There is a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday. That leaves five days of practice to make an impression.

DeFilippo said: “Every week Coach Heiss tells us that no one has a job. Every week you have an opportunity. The lineup is never the same. You have five chances to impress the coach and get your name in the lineup.”

DeFilippo came off the bench and got a hit against John Hopkins. That led to a start in right field against Muhlenberg.

“Coach Heiss is doing great job,” DeFilippo said. “He is super organized, loose at practice, and gives us all an opportunity to get better. It’s a brotherhood here. We are growing closer as season goes on. We are a young team. We mesh well. Everyone fits in.”

DeFilippo did his research before landing at McDaniel.

“I didn’t care about location. I wanted a small school where I could play baseball and study cinema,” he said. “I went to a camp and got in contact with the coaches here. After some showcases, I made a visit and was told I had a spot on the team. I committed in August of my senior year.”

Losing his final season at Shelton weighs on DeFilippo.

“Coach (Scott) Gura worked with us. Our junior year was great. We had a great group of guys. We were so solid position wise. Our pitchers came on late. The bench guys were behind us,” he said. “We put together a fall team, the Shelton Siege. We were dominant. We thought we were bound for a great season before COVID hit.”

DeFilippo said he is now back where it all began.

“When you are a senior in high school you are at the top. When you get to college you have to start all over. You are at the bottom,” he said. “You want to impress your coaches and your teammates. It also means you bring the Gatorade down from the bus. You carry the bucket of balls.”

Hitting is the key to getting more playing time.

“I need more at bats this summer wherever I can get them,” DeFilippo said. “Every pitcher in college is consistent. You see more off-speed pitches. They get you to two-strikes quick. You must stick with your approach. We have a lot of talent. We will be good the next few years.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354