New Market outfielder Eyster wins Valley League MVP

New Market's Andrew Eyster signals two outs to his fellow outfielders Monday night against Strasburg at Rebel Park in New Market. Eyster was announced as the Valley League's MVP on Sunday. Rich Cooley/Daily

New Market outfielder Andrew Eyster, whose arrival two weeks into the season helped turn the Rebels’ offense into one of the best in the Valley Baseball League, has claimed the VBL’s top postseason accolade.

The soon-to-be South Carolina Gamecock was named the Valley League’s 2018 Most Valuable Player, the league announced Sunday, joining a list of honorees that included Pitcher of the Year Jared Wetherbee (Charlottsville) and Maynard “Mo” Weber Manager of the Year Alex Kotheimer (Covington).

Eyster, who has transferred from Santa Fe College to South Carolina for the upcoming school year, led the Valley League in batting average (.421), slugging percentage (.781) and on-base percentage (.511) this summer. He hit nine home runs and had 35 RBIs in 32 regular season games with the Rebels.

Eyster, who has had his name called twice in the Major League Baseball Draft since graduating high school in 2017, hit safely in 28 of those 32 regular season games and was 6-for-19 (.316) with two homers, three doubles and six RBIs in four playoff contests heading into Monday’s Valley League championship series against Charlottesville.

He ranked fourth in the VBL in RBIs, trailing Covington’s J.D. Mundy (12 homers, 48 RBIs), Charlottesville’s Dom D’Alessandro (48 RBIs) and Stuanton’s Trey Jacobs (37 RBIs).

In one three-game stretch midway through the season, Eyster was 11-for-15 (.733) with two home runs, two doubles and 10 RBIs, including a 5-for-5 performance that included a homer and five RBIs against Waynesboro on July 3.

Eyster was one of three New Market players to earn a spot on the All-Valley League first team, the result of a league-wide vote of team and media representatives. Fellow Rebel outfielder Oraj Anu (Wallace Community College) joined Eyster on the first team after batting .358 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs, and right-hander Trevin Eubanks (University of Southern Mississippi) snagged one of two reliever spots after posting a 1.50 ERA and holding opponents to a .100 batting average while averaging 18 strikeouts per nine innings (36 in 18 innings pitched).

Front Royal landed two players on the All-VBL first team, including pitcher/second baseman Rob Griswold at the utility spot and starting pitcher Gabriel Ponce (3-0, 2.27 ERA, 32 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings).

Wetherbee, a CAA All-Rookie selection at Elon, claimed the Valley League’s Pitcher of the Year honors after going 3-1 with a 1.06 ERA with Charlottesville. He held opposing batters to a .085 average while striking out 44 over 25 1/3 innings. Wetherbee walked 10 and allowed just seven hits.

Under Kotheimer, Covington boasted a 12-win turnaround between the 2017 and 2018 seasons and ended the regular season with the league’s best record (26-16). The Lumberjacks fell to Charlottesville in a one-game showdown for the South Division championship.

The All-Valley League second team included New Market shortstop Kobe Lopez and third baseman Chase Sudduth – the only repeat All-VBL selection in 2018 (he was a second-team pick at second base in 2017) – and Front Royal first baseman Andrew Burden, outfielder Spencer Packard and reliever Matt Blair. Strasburg landed three players on the second team, including catcher Ryan Hogan, designated hitter Colton Schultz and starting pitcher Chance Hroch.