Byline: Bryan rnes Daily Herald Correspondent
If a collegiate or professional scout makes a cameo appearance at a Downers Grove South baseball game - and that's always a big if - the Mustangs' ace on the hill should wear one of those stick-on name tags.
HELLO, MY NAME IS Steve Shields, I'm three plays removed from an unbeaten record and no Division I schools are recruiting me.
Other facts could be mentioned, such as Downers South is winning the West Suburban Gold; or that Shields, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior, is 7-3 with a 1.90 ERA, 79-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a mid-80s fastball; or that he's a model of consistency and can throw the rock with a live arm on two days' rest.
"Steve's been underrated," said his coach, Phil Fox. "I think Steve is good and somebody should see him, but it's almost impossible to get anybody to come out and see him."
It's enough to make Phil crazy like a fox. The first-year coach has mailed out letters to 42 colleges and at least six pro scouting services, yet Shields might as well be the invisible man.
"I don't know if there's enough word on him," Fox said. "He has speed, composure on the mound and a good breaking ball. Every time I pitch him, I pitch him against the best teams. What else are you looking for?
"He was throwing 83 (mph) in the late innings (Tuesday at Addison Trail), and if you're throwing that fast, somebody should be looking at you."
Academically, Shields makes the grade. So what's the problem?
First and foremost, Downers South is a low-profile program, which makes Shields a low-profile pitcher. He's also fighting the stigma of the Gold, long considered the weaker of the West Suburban Conference's two divisions.
"The papers don't show our side of the conference any respect and they don't show us any respect," Fox said.
"We've got some credit, but not as much as we deserve," Shields said. "No one takes us seriously. We're a lot better than what the papers show us. We want to send a message that Mustangs baseball is not going to be taken lightly."
With last weekend came the opportunity to hammer home that message and debunk that conference stigma. To a degree, the Mustangs did both.
In a game pitting the Gold and Silver division leaders and their ace righties, Shields upstaged Oak Park's undefeated Kevin Niehaus but lost 3-2 in the seventh inning.
Shields' line: 7 innings pitched, 3 runs (all earned), 6 hits, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts. Niehaus' line: 7 innings, 2 runs (both earned), 7 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts.
Afterward, Oak Park coach Jack Kaiser was asked why it took his highly-ranked team seven innings to string together 2 hits against Shields. …