The Valley Baseball League didn’t have a shot to claim the championship at this past weekend’s Southern Collegiate Showcase in North Carolina due to poor weather that forced alteration of the schedule, but the league’s group of 30 all-stars still put on a strong showing.
The VBL went 2-0 in the event held Saturday and Sunday at Intimidators Stadium in Kannapolis, a performance that included a shutout victory over the Southern Collegiate Baseball League and a walk-off win against the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
“I thought we were real happy about the way our guys performed and just the way they competed,” said Butch Barnes, former manager of the Strasburg Express who served as an assistant coach for the VBL squad managed by Harrisonburg’s Bob Wease. “Couldn’t ask for anything better.”
In a game that set the tone for the league’s trip to North Carolina – Barnes said pitching “ruled the weekend” for the Valley League – the VBL got two perfect innings from Staunton’s Deacon Medders to open Saturday’s win over the SCBL, a start cut short by a rain delay. Purcellville’s Thomas Sutera took the mound in the third and retired the first eight batters he faced before the perfect game was broken up in the fifth inning of the VBL’s 6-0 victory.
VBL pitchers remained perfect into the fourth inning on Sunday against the Cal Ripken League before the Valley League walked off with a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the winning run scoring on Vinnie Pasquantino’s sacrifice fly for the 3-2 win.
Barnes said that the VBL’s pitching staff – which allowed two runs on 16 hits, nine walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched, surrendered just two extra-base hits and stranded 22 base runners over the course of the two games – was “definitely the cream of the crop” at the Southern Collegiate Showcase.
“I can honestly tell you that our pitching staff, of the 16 guys we sent down there, all are capable, all very deserving of throwing,” Barnes said. “And we did, we got to throw everybody.”
Getting everyone playing time in North Carolina, in front of a crowd that included professional scouts, required some adjustments after rain forced a schedule change Saturday night and limited the VBL to just two games in the tournament. Barnes said Valley League coaches had originally set the pitching staff up for three games (a championship game was initially scheduled for Sunday) but found a way to get 11 pitchers on the mound in Sunday’s win.
Barnes added that the VBL coaching staff apologized to scouts for the limited on-field exposure – no Valley League pitcher threw more than one inning on Sunday – but said that many of the league’s prospects have already worked their way onto watch lists.
“As long as somebody gets on somebody’s radar they can follow them, and that’s the biggest thing,” Barnes said.
Of the 30 players the Valley League took to the showcase, eight came from the four local teams in Front Royal (pitcher Josh Andrews, outfielder Luc Lipcius), New Market (pitchers Nate Pawelczyk and Keven Pimentel, catcher Jake Washer), Strasburg (pitcher Zach Peek and outfielder/pitcher Brandon Quaranta) and Woodstock (infielder/pitcher Cash Gladfelter).
Andrews pitched 1/3 of an inning on Sunday while allowing two walks and striking out one, Lipcius went 1-for-5 over the two games with an RBI and two runs scored, and Pawelczyk (one inning pitched, no hits, two walks), Pimentel (1/3 inning pitched, one earned run, two hits, one walk) and Washer (1-for-3) each saw action on Sunday.
Peek started Sunday’s game and threw a hitless inning with two strikeouts, while Quaranta went 1-for-4 over the two games and drove in two runs in Saturday’s win.
“(Peek) sat 92, 94 (mph) and had all his pitches with him. And we had three or four guys like that,” Barnes said.
Gladfelter went 2-for-8 over the weekend with two steals on Saturday and a double and a run scored on Sunday.
“Cash played every inning at shortstop for us in those two games,” Barnes said of Gladfelter, whom he mentioned alongside Winchester outfielder Cody Wilson as key pieces in the VBL’s error-free defensive showing over the weekend. “He swung it well and he fielded it really well, showed range.”