The Valley Baseball League’s squad of traveling all-stars arrived at the Southern Collegiate Showcase in North Carolina on Monday looking to grab a pair of victories in the two-day event. The VBL didn’t quite get the two wins they were hunting, but the league left the event without a loss for the second straight summer.
The Valley League battled the Florida Collegiate Summer League to a 5-5 tie in its showcase opener on Monday and returned to Wingate University’s Ron Christopher Stadium on Tuesday to rally past the Sunbelt League for a 6-4 victory.
Despite returning home with the disappointment of blowing a five-run lead in game one against the Florida League, New Market Rebels manager Zac Cole – one of the VBL’s assistant coaches under Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease – said the Valley League left feeling its second trip to the Southern Collegiate Showcase was a success.
“I think as far as the goal of showcasing our league and the type of players that we have, I think we did that. Mission accomplished,” Cole said on Wednesday afternoon. “We looked good positionally, looked good on the mound and played good defense, so as far as the goal going up there, I think we accomplished that for sure.”
The VBL’s most recent effort ensured that it was the only league in attendance to go unbeaten over the last two years at the showcase event (the Valley League beat the Southern Collegiate Baseball League and the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League in 2017).
The Florida League came close to handing the VBL its first loss in the event, chipping away after the Valley League’s five-run second inning before the game ended in a tie. The Florida League was down to its last strike before Andrew Labosky dropped the game-tying RBI double down the left-field line in the ninth inning.
The Valley League rebounded against the Sunbelt League on Tuesday by rallying from an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs between the fifth and seventh innings. A three-run seventh was the difference for the VBL, which surrendered a pair of runs in the ninth before clinching the 6-4 win.
“We knew that we had a chance to put some zeroes up and we went down 2-0 early. It was just a matter of battling and putting good at-bats together,” Cole said. “We were able to score those few runs late, and it ended up being huge because we gave a couple up in the ninth. But the other teams there were quality and represented their leagues just like we represented ours. They have good players and they came there and played hard. I think overall it was a great event for everybody that was involved. There’s no doubt about that.”
The VBL’s 25-man showcase squad included 11 pitchers and 14 position players who were chosen to represent the professional talent in the league.
Harrisonburg second baseman Austin Embler led the Valley League’s offensive attack, going 4-for-8 with two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base in the two games. Waynesboro outfielder Chase Cheek was 3-for-8 with two doubles, two runs scored and a steal, and Covington slugger J.D. Mundy was 3-for-7 with a home run, a double and three RBIs.
New Market’s trio of position players – outfielder Andrew Eyster, designated hitter Oraj Anu and catcher Riley Wash – each picked up a hit at the Southern Collegiate Showcase.
Eyster, the Valley League’s leader in batting average and OPS, went 1-for-4 in Monday’s game against the Florida League. Anu was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored on Tuesday, and Wash also was 1-for-2 with a run scored against the Sunbelt League.
Strasburg Express pitcher Sylvester Toe tossed the third inning against the Sunbelt League and allowed an earned run on a walk and a hit batter. Express teammate Devin Dunn followed with two hitless innings, allowing two walks and striking out one, and New Market’s Jacinto Arredondo threw a scoreless eighth inning, allowing a hit and striking out two.
New Market’s Trevin Eubanks was the only VBL pitcher (out of five) not to allow a run in Monday’s tie. He gave up one hit in a scoreless eighth inning.
“We saw some good competition from the other leagues that were there, so it was definitely a challenge and I felt like our hitters battled. Obviously a guy can have an off day or an off game or something and maybe not be a good representation of what he is in one day or two games or whatnot, but I felt like overall we showed the depth of our league, the quality of our league and the kind of players that we have,” Cole said.
“And from the players’ perspective, I think there were some scouts there, people that see those guys play and I think that was what all of them wanted to do going down there, so mission accomplished for them as well. They were able to get in front of some scouts and (there were) some national writers that do baseball coverage, like D1 Baseball and Baseball America and stuff like that. That helps to get some exposure not only for our players but for our league as well.”