In his two seasons on varsity at Shoreham-Wading River High School, Tyler Pepper helped lead the Wildcats to a pair of memorable seasons. In his senior season in 2017, the Wildcats won the county championship and set the program record for most wins.
On most teams, a pitcher like Pepper would have been at the forefront of the team’s rotation. But in those two years, the Wildcats were flooded with so much talent, Pepper had to patiently wait his turn.
He pitched as a closer his junior year before earning a starting spot as the team’s No. 3 in the rotation as a senior.
The headlines that year centered largely around the hard-throwing pitcher/shortstop Brian Morrell, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and now attends the University of Notre Dame.
“I definitely did not get a lot of attention,” Pepper said. “I quietly did my job. I relished the underdog role.”
Pepper is spending this summer honing his craft as a pitcher on the North Fork Ospreys in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. He attends Felician University in New Jersey where as a freshman this past spring he appeared in 16 games, earning one win with a 4.35 ERA.
He’s pitched in relief for the Ospreys, most recently throwing an inning in Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Westhampton. He gave up a pair of unearned runs.
He said the competition in the summer league has been strong.
“I just really wanted to see how I can play against high level competition,” he said.
He had a few options for summer ball with leagues in Florida and New England but found an ideal landing spot with the Ospreys not far from home in Shoreham. It also allows his family and friends a chance to see some of his games, which doesn’t happen as often in college, he said.
Pepper said it was “awesome” to see so many people at the games this year.
The Ospreys were 12-14-3 and in fifth place heading into Monday’s all-star game.
A 6-foot, right-handed pitcher, Pepper throws a fastball and slider. He said he’s using the summer league as an opportunity to work more on a change-up to give him another pitch he feels confident in when he returns to college. He said developing that third pitch will be key for him to eventually earn a spot in the starting rotation in college.
Even when he’s not pitching, Pepper said it’s been helpful just being around the other guys in the bullpen during the summer league.
“We just talk about pitching and how to attack this guy or just in general, how do you use your pitches,” he said. “Everything about pitching.”
Playing baseball in college had been something in the back of his mind as he was growing up and then became more of a reality later in high school, he said. At Shoreham he posted a 5-1 record with 2.10 ERA and struck out 52 batters in 42 innings.
He was one of 10 players from his high school team to go on to play college baseball. Two of his teammates from that season are also in the Hamptons League: Tom Brady plays catcher for the Long Island Road Warriors and Miles Kelly plays first base/outfield for the Riverhead Tomcats.
When he reflects back on his time with the Wildcats, he said his biggest memory was the final one: losing in the Class A Long Island Championship game against Wantagh. The Wildcats were one win away from reaching the state final four.
“It was a great ride,” he said. “I played with a lot of good baseball players.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Pepper pitches the eighth inning for the North Fork Ospreys in Saturday’s game against Westhampton. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)