The wins have been plenty and the losses few during Philip Pfeifer’s high-school career.
That could be a great sign for Vanderbilt's baseball team.
By the time Pfeifer graduates from Farragut High School this spring, he’ll be Tennessee’s all-time wins leader. The left-handed pitcher enters Friday’s opener at the Blackman Invitational in Murfreesboro with a 42-3 career record. The senior is tied with Brad Howard, who set the record at Oakdale from 1992-96.
“It is definitely a big deal,” Pfeifer said. “It is not so much me that has been able to do that. I have had a lot of great guys that have played around me that have made that possible. ... When I first came to high school, I expected to be playing freshman and JV ball and then end up to varsity my junior year and being able to pitch some for us and hopefully be able to do well.
“ ... It turns out I ended up going 13-1 in my freshman year and getting to pitch in our first state championship game. It was kind of a big deal and it has been able to baptize me by fire, I guess, and get me ready to be able to pitch my whole career.”
Pfeifer has played a huge role in Farragut’s recent success. The Admirals have won three straight state titles. Pfeifer was the starting pitcher in all three games.
He has accumulated more than 400 strikeouts, including 196 last year, and his career ERA is hovering around 1.40.
“I’m able to get the ball up there reasonably hard but for the most part I make my living off locating, throwing strikes and mixing it up,” Pfeifer said. “Whenever I go out on the mound, I try to lay down an iron curtain and not let the other team be able to score. That is the best thing I can do for my team is just let them get as many runs as possible. If it is only one, then it is enough.”
With a 6-foot, 195-pound frame, Pfeifer might not look very intimidating but his pitches beg to differ. Not only does he top out at 92 miles per hour with his fastball, but he also has a sharp curveball, a splitter and a changeup to keep batters off-balanced.
“He is the whole package,” Farragut’s second-year head coach Matt Buckner said. “He has got everything you would want in a pitcher. He is pretty good at what he does. ... With the competitiveness, he has the stuff, too. He has the pitch-ability, the dominance factor in the fastball, everything. He is the best I have ever seen [in nine years of coaching].”
Along with Vanderbilt, Pfeifer received looks from Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. But he scored a 31 on the ACT and was attracted to Vanderbilt's combination of baseball and academic prominence.
“Vanderbilt is an awesome place. Nashville is an incredible city. I love Tennessee, so I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” he said. “I love Coach [Tim] Corbin, I love DJ [pitching coach Derek Johnson], I love [hitting coach Josh] Holliday and the guys there are great. Education is important to my family. I am just really excited to be able to go there and be a Commodore.”
With the 2011 MLB draft a few months away, however, Pfeifer could opt to skip college if he gets drafted high. But the 18-year-old said he plans to stick with a Vanderbilt program that is currently ranked as high as second in the country.
“Getting a college degree is a goal. Playing in the major leagues is a goal. Playing in the minor leagues is a means to a goal,” he said. “Personally, I am kind of a family-based, loyal person. I wouldn’t want to walk out on a program that I have put time into, put effort into after one year. I mean, later on? Possibly. But I have a good feeling that Coach Corbin and DJ are guys that I am going to love to be around.”