Scherzer, Llewellyn Play Together Again in Harrisonburg

Summer baseball can represent many things to baseball players.

For some, it could be necessary time to work back from an injury, while for others it could be to continue to sharpen their skills over the long summer break between semesters in college.

Others still just want to play baseball because they love baseball.

However, one reason that isn’t as often pointed to, but can be equally important, is the reunion of teammates.

That was the happy byproduct for Powhatan natives and Powhatan High School graduates Andrew Llewellyn and Luke Scherzer this summer playing for the Harrisonburg Turks in the Valley Baseball League.

It was the second season for the pair playing for the Turks, though this season came through a happy coincidence for Llewellyn to join the team.

Llewellyn had just completed his summer internship when Scherzer texted him.

“Luke texted me and said they needed a catcher,” Llewellyn said.

It was already in the second half of the season by the time Llewellyn joined the team on June 28.

But, unlike last year when there were several catchers on the roster, Llewellyn filled a huge need for the Turks at the time and got a lot of playing time.

“I was catching really well and was getting to catch almost every day,” he said. “Last year, we had a lot of catchers on the roster, so I didn’t get as many opportunities behind the plate. This summer, I got to catch a lot and for a lot of different pitchers.”

One of those pitchers was Scherzer, making for a complete Powhatan battery for the Turks for a few games.

“It was awesome,” Scherzer said. “(Andrew and I) have been great friends for a while. He’s younger than me, so I saw him get bigger and stronger and better as he went through high school. I haven’t been able to see him play since high school and now he’s going to be a senior at Wingate. He’s become a great baseball player and certainly a major league prospect.”

“It was his senior year the last time that we played a game together,” Llewellyn said. “It was really cool to get to do that.”

Scherzer was on the state championship team with the Indians in 2012 and currently plays for Virginia Tech.

He played in 25 games for the Hokies out of the bullpen in 2014 and another 27 in 2015 for a total of 85.2 innings with a combined 81 strikeouts. He posted an ERA of 4.05 in 2014 and 4.73 in 2015 and had team-high saves of five and four in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

According to his bio on the Virginia Tech website, Scherzer was the second true freshman in Hokies history to lead the team in saves, when he had five in 2014.

But, Scherzer missed 2016 and 2017 after suffering back-to-back elbow injuries which required Tommy John surgery.

Scherzer returned to the mound for Virginia Tech in 2018, appearing in 11 games and starting nine of them. His first game back was against Central Michigan on March 7, ending an almost three year drought from collegiate play.

This season, he had a 5.76 ERA in 25 innings, striking out 19 batters with a 1-4 record.

“It’s been a long journey coming off Tommy John twice,” he said. “This spring season was a rehab thing where I got as many innings as I could as long as my arm felt good. When I got to Harrisonburg this summer, my arm finally started to feel like it was conditioned and ready to go. This summer was a building block toward me feeling 100-percent. I was able to go six, seven innings a game and was able to throw the ball as hard as I wanted to without any pain or soreness at all.”

His growing comfort with his arm showed during his time with the Turks this summer.

Scherzer appeared in nine games, seven of which he started. He pitched 37.2 innings and struck out 32 batters.

He allowed 40 hits, 20 runs, 16 of which were earned and walked just five batters. He posted a 3.82 ERA with a 2-3 record.

“I thought it was great progress for my situation right now,” he said.

Scherzer’s return to the mound in 2018 was the product of a decision making process that he went through following the second Tommy John surgery.

“I was like ‘ok, do you want to move on and start a different career and go out in the real world?” he said. “I decided that I had come along way and that I’d had success before I got hurt. So, I wanted to give myself another opportunity. I felt like I would be doing a disservice to myself and would regret it later in my life if I didn’t give it one more shot. Right now, I’m giving it another try and it’s going pretty well.”

Scherzer did say that going through two injuries and watching his teammates play when he couldn’t gave him a new appreciation for the game.

“I always loved the game and being around it,” he said. “It definitely put it in perspective that you can’t take the game for granted. It’s such a beautiful game and it’s the best game in the world. When you sit back and are watching it, you become a fan of the sport. When I became a fan of it, I stopped taking the sport and my game for granted. It made me want to play even more. It made me itch every day to get back on that mound.”

Llewellyn and Scherzer had worked together during both of Scherzer’s rehab stints after his Tommy John surgeries, as Llewellyn would catch his bullpen sessions.

“In the winter, we’d get together and go to RVA and he threw his pens and would throw front toss to me,” he said. “We did that both winters that he was home coming off of Tommy John. This summer, he was starting and it was the first time he’d started since before the injuries. Being able to catch him and having him pitch well, it was really cool for me. I was used to doing that as a younger guy in high school and I really looked up to him. He was one of the older guys and one of the more dominant pitchers we had.”

For Llewellyn, playing with the Turks this season wasn’t just a reunion with Scherzer, but also with some of his teammates from Wingate, such as Alex Rodriguez and Zach Little.

“It was a lot of fun,” Llewellyn said of getting to play with Bulldogs teammates. “They both pitched really well all summer. It was awesome to get to play with them outside of the high-stress environment of the college season. We all lived in the same apartment in Harrisonburg. We’d go get food then go to the field. It wasn’t a break from baseball, but it was a way to continue enjoying baseball.”

Llewellyn hit .192 in 19 games for the Turks this summer. He had a home run and 3 RBIs with 10 hits.

Behind the plate, he was perfect, posting four put-outs and a perfect fielding percentage.

While Llewellyn took some time off following the end of the Turks season, Scherzer travelled to Massachusetts to play some more baseball almost immediately following the Turks bowing out of the playoffs.

Scherzer will play for Virginia Tech in 2019 for his sixth year of eligibility.

Llewellyn will head back to Wingate University to play again for the Bulldogs in his senior season.